Prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released from a Saudi prison after nearly three years behind bars, her family said on Wednesday, a case that has drawn international condemnation.
Hathloul, 31, was detained in May 2018 and sentenced in December to nearly six years in prison on charges that U.N. human rights experts have called “spurious” under broad counter-terrorism laws. The court, which also ordered a five-year travel ban, had suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence, most of which had already been served.
“Loujain is at home !!!!!!” her sister Lina tweeted, posting a close-up picture of Hathloul’s face.
Another sister, Alia, said in a separate post that Hathloul was at their parents’ home in Saudi Arabia, adding “this is the best day of my life.”
Loujain is at home !!!!!!
تم الافراج عن لجين pic.twitter.com/fqug9VK6Mj
— Lina Alhathloul لينا الهذلول (@LinaAlhathloul) February 10, 2021
The White House earlier this month said President Joe Biden, who is taking a firmer line with the kingdom, expects Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record, including releasing women’s rights activists and other political prisoners.
Hathloul, detained along with several women’s rights activists, was convicted on charges including seeking to change the Saudi political system and harming national unity. Human Rights Watch called her conviction a “travesty of justice”.
Rights groups and her family say Hathloul, who campaigned for women’s right to drive and to end the kingdom’s male guardianship system, was subjected to abuse, including electric shocks, waterboarding, flogging and sexual assault.
Saudi authorities have denied the accusations. A Saudi appeals court dismissed Hathloul’s claim that she was tortured in jail, citing a lack of evidence, her family said on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia’s rights record came under intense global scrutiny after the 2018 murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi agents, which tarnished the image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The prince has denied ordering the killing of the Washington Post columnist.