MANAMA (AFP) – Jailed Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul is accused of contacting “unfriendly” states and providing classified information, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said Saturday after the campaigner’s trial was transferred to a terrorism court.
Hathloul, 31, was arrested in May 2018 with around a dozen other women activists just weeks before the historic lifting of a decades-long ban on female drivers, a reform they had long campaigned for.
Saudi authorities late last month transferred her case to the draconian anti-terrorism court, her family said, raising the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence, despite international pressure for her release.
“There are accusations of dealing with states unfriendly to the kingdom and with providing classified information and other issues like that,” Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said during a visit to Manama, the capital of Bahrain. “It’s up to the courts to decide… what the facts are.”
Hathloul’s treatment has been sharply criticised by rights groups, and her sister Lina al-Hathloul said: “Loujain’s charges don’t mention any contact with ‘unfriendly’ states – they explicitly cite her contact with the EU, the UK and the Netherlands. Does Saudi Arabia consider them as enemies?”
Hathloul, who recently went on a two-week hunger strike in prison, was visibly “weak” and “shaking uncontrollably” when she appeared on November 26 at Riyadh’s criminal court, where she has been tried since March 2019 in closed-door sessions, Lina has said.