A leading Saudi women’s rights activist has been sentenced to five years and eight months in jail.
The Saudi terrorism court sentenced Loujain al-Hathloul, who has allegedly been tortured in prison, on Monday.
Ms Hathloul, who successfully campaigned to win Saudi women the right to drive, has 30 days to launch an appeal against her sentencing.
The court is said to have suspended two years and 10 months of Ms Hathloul’s sentence for time spent in prison as the 31-year-old was arrested in May 2018.
Lina al-Hathloul, the younger sister of the Nobel peace prize-nominated activist, said: “After nearly three years in pre-trial detention and now five weeks of a rushed trial process in the Specialised Criminal Court, my sister Loujain was sentenced. She was charged, tried and convicted using counter-terrorism laws.
“To be sentenced for her activism and for the very reforms that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the Saudi kingdom so proudly tout is the ultimate hypocrisy.
“Loujain and my parents, who are her lawyers, were given little time to prepare, so it is hard to understand how this trial process is a fair one. My sister is not a terrorist; she is an activist. My sister is the bravest person I know.”
She said that although the family were “devastated” that the activist would be forced to “spend even one more day in prison”, their fight was “far from over”, adding that they “will not rest until Loujain is free”.
Ms Hathloul, who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2019, peacefully campaigned for years alongside other activists to give women the right to drive.
The University of British Columbia graduate had previously been arrested and released several times for defying the driving ban in the highly Conservative country.
Ms Hathloul, who recently launched a hunger strike over her jail conditions, was arrested with 10 other women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 – weeks before the kingdom reversed the driving ban.
Lucy Rae, a spokesperson for human rights charity Grant Liberty, a human rights charity, told The Independent that the sentencing of Ms al-Hathloul was an “international outrage”.
She said: “Loujain is a peaceful campaigner for the basic freedoms the rest of the world takes for granted. In response she has been imprisoned, tortured and abused by the Saudi authorities – yet they call her the terrorist.
“It is the Saudi regime that rules by terror. The international community must not let this stand. If human rights mean anything more than words on a page – it’s time for real action. Loujain must be released – and as Joe Biden has said, it’s time for the rest of the world to treat Saudi Arabia as the pariah it is until it ends these sickening abuses.”
Local press said Ms Hathloul was charged with damaging the kingdom’s national security and trying to alter its political structure.
Human rights organisations have repeatedly called for the campaigner to be immediately released from jail, arguing that the charges against her are false and must be dropped.
At the end of last month, the campaigner’s sister, Lina, told The Independent: “From the beginning, it has been a sham trial and a show trial, so it won’t magically become a fair trial. From the beginning, it has been normal to give a day’s notice for things.
“The authorities’ decisions have been very impulsive. The procedures have not been respected and have not been fair. The authorities previously blocked my parents from giving Loujain her legal documents.”
She said: “I really miss my sister. Not a second goes by that I don’t miss her.”