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Saudi Arabia to put detained women rights activists on trial for 'national security violations' Open in fullscreen

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Saudi Arabia to put detained women rights activists on trial for 'national security violations'

Some of those detained have been subjected to caning, electrocution and sexual assault [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 March, 2019

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Saudi women activists, who were detained last year and reportedly been subjected to torture, will be put on trial for "undermining the kingdom's security".

Saudi women activists, who were detained last year and reportedly been subjected to torture, will be put on trial for "undermining the kingdom's security".

The Saudi Press Agency made the announcement in a brief statement on Friday, without directly identify the defendants as women activists or giving a date for court proceedings.

"The public prosecution would like to announce that it has concluded its investigation and prepared the indictment list against the defendants... and will refer the case to the relevant court," the SPA statement said.

"The public prosecutor would like to affirm that all detainees in this case enjoy all rights preserved by the laws in the kingdom,"

More than a dozen activists were arrested in May last year in a sweeping crackdown on campaigners - just before the historic lifting of a decades-long ban on women drivers the following month.

Many of them were accused of undermining security and aiding enemies of the state. Some were subsequently released.

Some of those detained have been subjected to caning, electrocution and sexual assault, rights groups and their family members say.

The Saudi government has denied the allegations despite piling evidence.

The government statement drew sharp criticism from rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

"These women's rights activists should be released from detention for their peaceful activism not referred to trial," said Amnesty's Samah Hadid, the organisation's Middle East campaigns director.

Alia al-Hathloul, the sister of one of the detained activists, also condemned the statement.

"Where are the arrest warrants? Where were the lawyers during the interrogations? Where is the secret prison where they were tortured? Do these actions match the ambitions of a modern state?" she tweeted on Friday.

Those still detained include Aziza al-Yousef, a retired professor at Riyadh's King Saud University, and Loujain al-Hathloul - who was held in 2014 for more than 70 days for attempting to drive from neighbouring United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia.

Following their arrest, state-backed newspapers published front-page pictures of some of the activists with the word "traitor" stamped across them in red.

The kingdom also faces widespread international criticism over the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October, allegedly by members of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's entourage, as well as over its yearslong war in Yemen.

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