Biden official slams Saudi jail sentence against rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul

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Jake Sullivan, the incoming national security adviser of US President-elect Joe Biden, yesterday criticised Saudi Arabia for sentencing prominent women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul to nearly six years in prison, describing the sentence as “unfair and disturbing”.

“Saudi Arabia’s sentencing of Loujain Al-Hathloul for simply exercising her universal rights is unjust and troubling. As we have said, the Biden-Harris administration will stand up against human rights violations wherever they occur,” Sullivan posted on Twitter.

On Monday, a Saudi anti-terrorism court sentenced Al-Hathloul and Maya Al-Zahrani – who was arrested hours after posting comments on the arrest of a fellow female activist – to five years and eight months in prison. The court suspended two years and ten months of Al-Hathloul’s sentence; with a conditional release to follow, her sister, Lina said.

The family will appeal the court’s ruling.

OPINION: There is a human rights dilemma in the US-Saudi relationship

Saudi local media said Al-Hathloul was convicted of “various activities prohibited by the anti-terrorism law”, explaining that the charges included agitating for change, pursuing a foreign agenda and using the internet to harm public order.

Al-Hathloul was arrested along with about a dozen other female activists in May 2018, just weeks before Saudi Arabia lifted a decades-old ban on female drivers. She went on a hunger strike in October for several weeks to protest against her prison conditions. A report realised earlier this month alleged that she was amongst a number of female activists that were being tortured and forced to carry out “sex acts” while in detention.

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