Amnesty International has urged Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release jailed prominent Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, whose arrest more than four years ago marked the start of a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against women activists in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
“Reports reaching Amnesty International indicate that authorities have allowed a doctor, who does not speak Arabic to visit Lujain. They have prevented him from communicating with her in any other language, forcing Lujain to use sign language. This has thus adversely affected the quality of health care she has received,” the Britain-based human rights group said in a statement on Friday.
Amnesty International added that Lujain was taken back to solitary confinement after the doctor’s visit ended.
“This mistreatment must stop. Lujain is a prisoner of conscience and has the full right to receive appropriate medical care. Saudi Arabia should end this inhumane treatment immediately,” the group noted.
Amnesty International then asked King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Saudi officials to provide the distinguished women’s rights activist with appropriate medical care, and to immediately and unconditionally release her.
Back on August 13 last year, Hathloul’s family said she had 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 at the time.
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.
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 the crown prince who has also been implicated in the murder of well-known journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey 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.