Nov. 26 (UPI) — Saudi Arabia moved the trial of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to a special court known for handling terrorism cases, her family said Thursday.
Al-Hathloul’s sister, Lina al-Hathloul, told NBC News that the activist shook uncontrollably and spoke in a faint voice during the rare court appearance where she was told her case would be moved to the country’s Specialized Criminal Court.
State diplomats were denied entry into the courthouse, citing COVID-19 regulations.
The charges against al-Hathloul related almost exclusively to her activism, including speaking to journalists, diplomats and international activist groups, The Guardian reported.
Al-Hathloul’s sister accused Saudi authorities of “criminalizing activism.”
“It’s extremely stressful to never know what your own government can do to you,” she said.
Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa described the “disturbing move” as “yet another sign that Saudi Arabia’s claims of reform on human rights are a farce.”
“Loujain al-Hathloul must be immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against her dropped. We also call on Saudi Authorities to ensure she is allowed to be treated by a doctor of her choice and granted proper access to her lawyer and family,” Maalouf said.
Al-Hathloul was arrested with seven other women’s rights activists on May 15, 2018, on what Saudi authorities called national security grounds after helping lead campaigns that allowed women to drive for the first time.
Earlier this month, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women called for her immediate release saying her health is likely failing due to a hunger strike.