On Monday, December 28, a court hearing will be held for the Saudi activist Loujain Al-Hathloul and it is likely that verdict will be announced then. Al-Hathloul has been tried for more than a year and a half in a trial that lacked transparency and standards of fair trials.
Loujain Al-Hathloul appearance
Al-Hathloul appeared before a judge for the first time in March 2019, a year after her arrest. She was arrested in May 2018 during an arrest campaign against dozens of activists and defenders of women’s rights with the orders of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.
Those arrested were subjected to violations, including enforced disappearance, torture, and forced confessions, in addition to being denied the right to appoint a lawyer or communicate with their families for long periods.
Al-Hathloul is at the risk of receiving a harsh sentence up to twenty years in prison, given the Public Prosecution’s continuous demands to increase her punishment after accusing her of communicating with foreign bodies and working to destabilize the security and stability of the country.
This session comes less than a week after the Saudi Criminal Court rejected Al-Hathloul’s accusations that she was subjected to torture at the hands of the security services, claiming that there is no evidence on her torture be it medical reports or videos on surveillance cameras. This excuse cannot be accepted since the authorities in this case are the opponent and it would not convict itself.
The court’s rejection of Al-Hathloul’s lawsuit raises several concerns on the verdict that will be announced soon, given that her trial was full of legal and human rights violations. Al-Hathloul was not allowed to appoint a lawyer or choose her defense committee. Her interrogations took place without the presence of a lawyer, strict secrecy were imposed on the progress of the investigations, and a one-sided account by the regime was being published without any neutral party being able to investigate the matter and find out the truth.
According to Al-Hathloul’s family, the court showed Loujain and her father a “confidential report on her torture in which the Public Prosecution rejected the torture accusations brought by Loujain, claiming that prison cameras do not store pictures for more than 40 days”. The court should have rejected this excuse instead of rejecting the case and should have also demand the security services to logically refute Loujain’s accusation as she was tortured two years ago.
The charges against Al-Hathloul are vague charges usually used by authoritarian regimes to justify pursuing activists, dissidents and thinkers.
Loujain was charged with communicating with foreign journalists and applying for a job in the United Nations, all of which are not actions outside the law. The UN is officially recognized by the Saudi authorities, which applied for a seat at the Human Rights Council and was rejected for its record of human rights violations and including its repressive practices against Loujain.
Neither the Public Prosecution nor the security services provided single evidence of the damage Al-Hathloul inflicted on the country. On the contrary, Loujain was known for her activism and in the field of defending women’s rights and demanding the introduction of a number of reforms to the laws on women, especially on allowing women to drive and reducing male guardianship over women.
Ironically, bin Salman himself issued decisions to lift the ban on women driving cars, and granted women many freedoms which reduced men’s guardianship on women! The only explanation for such move is that the Saudi regime refuses to credit any reforms to anyone but it.
“Together for Justice” calls on the international community and the concerned bodies to take urgent action to save Al-Hathloul from receiving an unjust verdict issued by a politicized entity known for being unjust and for issuing retaliatory verdicts to please the regime.
The organisation also calls on the free people in the world and international bodies which believe in the innocence of Loujain to demand her release and all other prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia, and to pressure their governments to stop dealing with the Saudi regime until the human rights situation there improve.