The prosecution of 11 women activists before a Criminal Court in Riyadh for their human rights work and contact with international organizations is an appalling escalation of the Saudi authorities’ crackdown on peaceful activism.
Some of the women were charged with promoting women’s rights and calling for the end of the male guardianship system. The women were also charged with contacting international organizations, foreign media and other activists, including their contact with Amnesty International
“The charges against the activists are the latest example of the Saudi authorities abusing legislation and the justice system to silence peaceful activists and deter them from working on the human rights situation in the country. This trial is yet another stain on the Saudi authorities’ appalling human rights record, and shows how empty the government’s claims of reform really are,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Campaigns Director.
“Activists brought to trial today are amongst Saudi Arabia’s bravest women human rights defenders. They have not only been smeared in state-aligned media for their peaceful human rights work, but have also endured horrendous physical and psychological suffering during their detention. We urge the Saudi authorities to drop these outrageous charges and release the women activists immediately and unconditionally,”
Activists brought before the Criminal Court in Riyadh yesterday include Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Amal al-Harbi, Dr. Ruqayyah al-Mharib, Nouf Abdulziaz, Maya’a al-Zahrani, Shadan al-Anezi, Dr. Abir Namankni, Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi and another female activist. Their next trial sessions have been scheduled for March, 27.
Amnesty International is calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all women activists. Pending their release the authorities should allow the women who are on trial to access lawyers of their choosing and diplomats to attend and observe the activists’ trials. The organization renews its call on the authorities to allow independent monitors into the prisons to investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment including sexual abuse.