A family member told NBC News on Thursday that one of Saudi Arabia’s foremost female rights campaigners, Lujain al-Hathlol, shook uncontrollably and appeared in rare court this week.
Luैनain al-Hathlul’s sister, Lina al-Hathlul, told NBC News by telephone from Berlin that the siblings’ parents had witnessed the hearing in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old Lougen was told during the hearing that his case would be transferred to the country’s Special Criminal Court, which deals with terrorism cases. He said it was his sister’s first court since March last year.
Lynn Maloff, deputy regional director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, a London-based rights campaigner, called the court’s transfer “a disturbing move”. The Special Criminal Court was “notorious for issuing lengthy prison sentences after severely defective trials,” she said in a statement.
Saudi officials did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment. NBC News was not able to independently confirm Lujan’s presence and health details.
“They are criminalizing activism,” Lina told Saudi officials. “It is very stressful never to know what your own government can do for you.”
Diplomats from several states were denied entry into the courtyard, according to Amnesty, under the “pretext” of the Kovid-19 rules.
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Her sister said that Lausanne, who advocated the right to drive women, had been on hunger strike for two weeks from 26 October. She was among a dozen other women campaigners to be arrested in May 2018, just weeks before ending a decade-long ban on women’s driving in Saudi Arabia.
Other dissidents, including Maulvi Salman al-Awada, who have called on the country’s rulers to be more sensitive to the wishes of the population for reform, have also gone on trial in the country’s anti-terrorism court.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said that women rights activists from at least three prisons, including Lausanne, have been held in solitary confinement and have suffered abuse, including electric shock, clashes and sexual harassment. Saudi Arabia has strongly denied the allegations.
Officials have not made public the specific allegations against Lausanne, but last year, the Saudi state news agency SPA said, the women detained and handcuffed were being accused of undermining security, stability and national unity.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for External Affairs Adel al-jubir In an interview, he told the BBC that the country had an independent judiciary and would “not allow people to lecture us.”
Al-Zubir said, “Lozen al-Hathul was detained on issues related to national security, dealing with foreign entities, hostile support from Saudi Arabia.”
“The courts will decide what his fate will be,” he said.
The Gulf state will face more scrutiny on its human rights record following the electoral defeat of President Donald Trump, who formed close ties with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS.
President-elect Joe Biden has promised to “reassure” US relations with the oil-rich nation and has described Saudi as a “pariah” for his human rights record, indicating a strong line.
Under the crown prince, Riyadh has made bold social reforms, including removing the “guardianship” system, requiring women to travel outside the home and obtain a male relative’s permission to work. He also relaxed social rules for theaters and curbed the powers of religious police.
But with political dissatisfaction with the reforms and a protracted battle in neighboring Yemen, a major humanitarian crisis has been fueled.
The assassination of Saudi Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, the murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, also horrified many worldwide and stigmatized the country’s international standing.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.