A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to five years and eight months in prison in a trial that has drawn international condemnation

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Loujain Hathloul

A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to five years and eight months in prison in a trial that has drawn international condemnation.

Key points:

  • Loujain al-Hathloul was charged with seeking to change the Saudi political system and harming national security
  • The verdict poses an early challenge to Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s relationship with US president-elect Joe Biden
  • The detentions of women activists occurred shortly before and after the country lifted a ban on women driving

Ms al-Hathloul, 31, has been held for more than two years following her arrest along with at least a dozen other women’s rights activist.

The verdict was handed down on Monday, according to the Sabq and al-Shark al-Awsat newspapers, and poses an early challenge to Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s relationship with US president-elect Joe Biden.

Mr Biden has previously described the Saudi Government as a “pariah” for its human rights record.

Ms al-Hathloul was charged with seeking to change the Saudi political system and harming national security, local media said.

The court suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence, the time served since Ms al-Hathloul was arrested on May 15, 2018.Youtube Footage of Loujain al Hathloul driving from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia.

United Nations human rights experts have described the charges against her as spurious and, along with leading rights groups and lawmakers in the United States and Europe, have called for her release.

The detentions of women activists occurred shortly before and after the kingdom lifted a ban on women driving, which many activists had long championed.

The change was part of reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that were also accompanied by a crackdown on dissent and an anti-corruption purge.

Ms al-Hathloul’s sentencing came almost three weeks after a Riyadh court jailed US-Saudi physician Walid al-Fitaihi for six years on vague charges related to criticising the government, despite US pressure to release him.

Rights groups have labelled the imprisonment as politically motivated.

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