Dec 28, 2020 - World

Prominent Saudi women’s rights activist sentenced to nearly 6 years in prison

Saudi Arabia.
Photo: Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

Prominent Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who was detained by the Saudi government nearly three years ago, has been sentenced to five years and eight months in jail, AP reports, citing state-linked media.

Why it matters: Human rights groups have condemned charges against al-Hathloul, which include agitating for change, spying with foreign parties and conspiring against the kingdom. The charges were brought under a "vague and broadly worded law," according to AP.

Background: Al-Hathloul had openly campaigned to grant women the right to drive — which the kingdom finally allowed in 2018 — and for an end to the nation's male guardianship laws.

  • The government claimed she was jailed for an alleged campaign to undermine the royal family, per The Guardian.
  • The case underscores how little dissent is tolerated within the kingdom, even as Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman touts reforms that have modernized the country.

What to watch: Al-Hathloul could be released as early as March 2021 because of time she has already served since her imprisonment in 2018, according to human rights group Prisoners of Conscience. 34 months of her sentencing will be suspended.

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