Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan said detained human rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul is accused of “communicating with countries that are not friendly with the kingdom and passing classified information to them”.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue conference, Bin Farhan told AFP that “it is up to the courts to decide (…) what the facts are”.
However, the Saudi minister said the kingdom rejects international pressure when it comes to “internal issues that are related to our national security, and we will deal with them in an appropriate manner through our judicial system”.
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.
At the end of last month, authorities referred Al-Hathloul’s case to a court specialised in terrorism, according to her family, which raised the possibility of a long prison sentence, despite international pressure for her release.
Human rights organisations have condemned authorities’ treatment of Al-Hathloul, while hersister Lina explained that during her three years pre-trial detention no evidence had been presented to support the allegations against her.
“The accusations against Loujain do not mention any contact with unfriendly countries, (…) and they clearly indicate her contact with the European Union, Britain and the Netherlands. Does Saudi Arabia consider these countries an enemy?” she said, adding that the accusations also do not mention anything related to passing confidential information.
“They accuse her of talking about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia in international conferences and with non-governmental organizations,” she said, stressing that Loujain was not aware that the information is confidential.