Loujain al-Hathloul released today
It is good to report that the Loujain al-Hathloul was released from prison in Saudi today (10 February 2021). Amnesty and other human rights groups have campaigned on her behalf for some time following her arrest, imprisonment, including time spent in solitary confinement. She alleges being tortured in prison which included the use of electric shocks, flogging as well as being sexually assaulted. These allegations are entirely believable since torture is routinely practised in the kingdom.
Loujain was one of the campaigners arguing for allowing women to drive, which they now can do, but this did not absolve her from arrest. Her sentence has been suspended and she is not allowed to talk about her time in prison or to leave Saudi. If she does so, she faces being rearrested.
Two events might have combined to achieve this result. A concerted campaign by human rights campaign groups to secure her release has led to continuous bad publicity for the kingdom and for Mohammed bin Salman. The arrival of President Joe Biden who is noticeably cooler towards the kingdom and has already suspended arms sales is likely to have been a factor. However, Grant Liberty is among those arguing that pressure must continue to secure other releases of people held in prisons after spurious trials. They point out that the country still carries out arbitrary arrests; people are tortured; there are many executions; children are treated as adults by the courts; women’s rights are ignored; there is no free speech and human rights organisations are banned in the country.
Sources: Grant Liberty, al Jazeera, the Guardian