Saudi Arabia: Women activists trial continues and launches a new wage of arrests

The third trial session of the Saudi women activists took place the 3rd of April 2019, leading to no release but a to a new wave of arrests.

Eleven Saudi women activists were tried on 26 March of 2019, the day after three of them, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef and Ruqayyaa al-Mhareb were provisionally released. The rest of the activists were expected to be released later the 31st. However, the third trial session, which occurred on 3 April 2019, did not lead to any conviction nor new release, as reported by Al-Jazeera. Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef and Ruqayya al-Mhareb announced that their fourth court appearance will be taking place after the month of Ramadan, at the beginning of June 2019. Verdicts concerning the other women activists could be issued on 17 April 2019.

According to the BBC, the day after the third trial session, Saudi authorities launched a new wave of arrests leading to the detention of eight people on 4 April 2019. The individuals arrested are shadowed supporters of the women activists currently tried, among them two Saudi-American citizens were also stopped. One of them is Badr al-Ibrahim, a writer and physician, and the other one is Aziza al-Yousef’s son, Salah al-Haider said the Guardian.

Meanwhile, prominent activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who is detained since May 2018, was again denied bail according to the Gulf Center of Human Rights. Her family told on Twitter they were pressured to remain silent about her arrest and claims of torture during the current trial, while the eleven women testified during their hearing on 27 March 2019 that they also endured torture and had to sign forced confessions. These allegations corroborate the medical reports that were leaked to the Guardian. The document, which is based on medical examination that took place in January 2019, points out that some female activists accused electric shocks, lashing, and sexual assault. In addition, political detainees also suffer from malnutrition and medical negligence.

Update on 24 April 2019: Verdicts concerning the other women activists were scheduled on 17 April 2019, but a Saudi Court postponed the fourth hearing without setting a new date. Furthermore, Bahrain mirror reports that currently 14 individuals are detained for supporting these women activists. Two of the new detainees are dual U.S. citizens and one of them is pregnant.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the release of Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef and Ruqayyaa al-Mhareb, and calls on the Saudi authorities to release all eight other women activists who still remain illegally imprisoned. Moreover, we condemn the new wave of arbitrary arrests, which targeted peaceful and innocent individuals, and call for their release as well. ECDHR strongly requests the Saudi government to take fully responsibility about the allegations of torture.

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