DUBAI: A court in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday denied the appeal by one of the kingdom’s most prominent political activists that would have allowed her to travel freely, her supporters said, weeks after her release from prison.
Loujain al-Hathloul, whose 1001-day detention drew fierce international criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record, had hoped to lift a five-year ban on traveling outside Saudi Arabia that the court imposed as a condition of her release. She also faces three years of probation, meaning that she cannot return to activism or speak her mind without risking re-arrest, her family said.
Al-Hathloul has declined interviews with the press and largely stayed silent on social media for that reason.
The Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh, which handles terrorism and national security charges, confirmed al-Hathloul’s original sentence on Wednesday, a rubber-stamp decision on the publicised and politicised case.
The international community should be outraged at this judgment, her sister Lina al-Hathloul said in a statement. The confirmation of the sentence of my sister Loujain is yet another confirmation of the abuse of power of the Saudi authorities.” Her travel ban underscores the government’s efforts to manage dissent in the kingdom through protracted restrictions on freed political prisoners. Two Saudi-Americans also released last month similarly face travel bans and asset freezes pending trial for what rights groups describe as unsubstantiated terrorism charges.
Al-Hathloul, 31, gained prominence as a champion of women’s right to drive before the kingdom lifted the ban in mid-2018. She was sentenced to almost six years in prison last December under vague cybercrime and counterterrorism laws. Rights activists described the charges as retribution for her activism.