The family of prominent Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul says she has dismissed a proposal to secure her release from prison in exchange for a video testimony denying that she had been tortured and sexually harassed in custody.
“The Saudi state security has visited my sister in prison recently. They have asked her to… appear on video to deny the torture and harassment. That was part of a deal to release her,” her brother Walid al-Hathloul, who is based in Canada, wrote on Twitter.
Walid went on to say that Loujain, who recently marked her 30th birthday in jail, had initially agreed to sign a document denying that she had been tortured, as a precondition for her release.
But state security officials recently visited her again in prison to ask her to make the denial she had been subjected to torture and harassment in a video as part of a release deal.
The family remained quiet recently in hopes the case could be resolved privately.
“Asking to appear on a video and to deny the torture doesn’t sound like a realistic demand,” Walid tweeted.
Her sister, Lina, separately said her sibling was under pressure to deny the torture claim.
“(I don’t know) what I’m risking by writing this. Maybe it will harm my sister. But I can’t keep it to myself,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Loujain has been proposed a deal: deny the torture and she’ll be free.
“Whatever happens I am certifying it (one) more time: Loujain has been brutally tortured and sexually harassed,” Lina pointed out.
Loujain al-Hathloul is among around a dozen renowned Saudi women’s rights activists, who are currently facing trial after being detained in a sweeping crackdown on political dissidents and pro-democracy campaigners last year.
She was among a number of detainees, who have accused interrogators of subjecting them to torture, including electric shocks, flogging and sexual assault in detention.
Saudi authorities have denied torture allegations, and said the arrests were made on suspicion of harming the interests of the ruling Riyadh regime and offering support to hostile elements abroad.
Hathloul’s family maintains that Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has also been implicated in the murder of well-known journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul last October, was present during some of the activist’s torture sessions and even threatened to rape and kill her.
Saudi Arabia has lately stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.
Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.