- The family of a jailed Saudi women’s-rights activist says she has refused a deal in which she would deny allegations of torture at the hands of prison guards in exchange for her freedom.
- Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent advocate of Saudi women’s right to drive and an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s guardianship laws, was detained alongside more than a dozen other women’s-rights activists in May 2018.
- Reports by human-rights groups have indicated that several of those jailed in the crackdown were tortured and sexually abused while in prison.
- Lina al-Hathloul on Tuesday said her sister had been offered a deal in exchange for her release and had been told to deny the allegations of torture.
- On Wednesday, Walid al-Hathloul said that Saudi state security visited his sister in prison to ask her to sign a document saying she would testify on camera that abuse did not occur but that she “immediately ripped the document.”
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The family of a prominent Saudi women’s-rights activist who was arrested over a year ago during a Saudi state-sanctioned crackdown on dissidents says she has refused a deal in which she would deny allegations of torture while in custody in exchange for freedom.
Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent advocate of Saudi women’s right to drive and an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s guardianship laws, was detained alongside more than a dozen other women’s-rights activists in May 2018 just as the country was preparing to lift its driving ban for women.
Many were held without formal charges or access to communication, rights groups say. Though the ban has since been lifted, most of the people who were arrested are still facing trial or remain in custody.
Reports by human-rights groups released in November indicated that several of those jailed in the crackdown were tortured while in prison.
Amnesty International said it obtained three testimonies alleging instances of sexual harassment, electrocution, and flogging in detention at the country’s Dhahban prison. Some of the detainees were so badly harmed that they were left unable to walk or stand properly, the report said.
One woman repeatedly attempted to take her own life while inside the prison, the report added.
Amnesty described one testimony as saying an activist “was made to hang from the ceiling.” Another woman was sexually harassed by masked interrogators, the report said.
Human Rights Watch reported similar torture at the hands of Saudi authorities of at least three women while they were in custody; it said the abuse included whipping and forcible hugging and kissing.
Saudi authorities have denied the allegations.
Lina al-Hathloul on Tuesday said that her sister had been offered a deal in exchange for her release and had been told to deny allegations of torture.
“Idk what I’m risking by writing this. Maybe it will harm my sister too. But I can’t keep it to myself,” she wrote on Twitter.
She added: “Whatever happens I am certifying it 1 more time: Loujain has been brutally tortured and sexually harassed.”
On Wednesday, Walid al-Hathloul said Saudi state security had visited his sister in prison to ask her to sign a document saying she would testify on camera that abuse did not occur. In return, she would be released, he said.
The #Saudi State Security has visited my sister in prison recently. They have asked her to sign on a document where she will appear on video to deny the torture and harassment. That was part of a deal to release her.
— Walid Alhathloul (@WalidAlhathloul) August 13, 2019
He said the family had remained silent over the past few weeks as they mulled over the requests by Saudi authorities.
He said that when Saudi authorities approached his sister to appear in the video, she “immediately ripped the document” and said the action would constitute a cover-up for Saud al-Qahtani, a former adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who she says was overseeing her torture.
Al-Qahtani is also said to have overseen the assassination of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October and was among five officials fired by the Saudi government in relation to Khashoggi’s death.
Saudi officials have not publicly commented on Loujain al-Hathloul’s case or the reports of the deal.
While prominent women’s-rights activists remain behind bars, authorities have been moving to enhance women’s rights in the kingdom.
In July 2018, the country lifted a decades-long ban and afforded women the right to drive. Earlier this month, authorities granted women the right to obtain a passport and travel without a male guardian.
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