Saudi Arabia releases two activists detained 3 years ago, rights group says | world news

Saudi Arabia has released two women’s rights activists detained nearly three years ago after serving their sentences, the London-based Saudi rights organization ALQST said on Sunday.

Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah were arrested in July 2018, along with more than a dozen other activists, on suspicion of harming Saudi interests, a decision that was condemned by the international community.

The Saudi government media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters. Few details have been provided by authorities about the charges against the women or the sporadic trials that have been closed to the public.

Their release follows that of prominent activist Loujain al-Hathloul in February, who had served half of her custodial sentence on broad cybercrime and counter-terrorism charges. She still faces a five-year travel ban.

Human Rights Watch welcomed ALQST’s report on Twitter regarding the release of Badawi and Sadah: “These brave women should never have been detained in the first place. They should have been appreciated for leading change in Saudi Arabia.

Badawi received the United States’ International Women of Courage Award in 2012 for challenging Saudi Arabia’s system of male guardianship and was among the first women to sign a petition calling on the government to allow women to drive, vote and vote. stand for local elections.

Sadah, from the restive Shia-majority province of Qatif, has also campaigned to abolish the guardianship system.

Repression

The women’s rights activists were detained before and after the kingdom lifted a ban on women’s driving in 2018 as part of social reforms that came with a crackdown on dissent that also attracted clerics and intellectuals.

Badawi’s ex-husband is serving a 15-year prison sentence for human rights activist. Her brother Raif Badawi, a prominent blogger, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for insulting Islam and cybercrime.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has taken a tough stance on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, which came under the spotlight following the October 2018 killing of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in consulate of the kingdom in Istanbul.

In February, Washington released an intelligence report implicating Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the killing of Khashoggi. The prince denies any involvement.

In April, the State Department expressed concern over the sentencing of a Saudi aid worker by a terrorism court to 20 years in prison followed by a 20-year travel ban.