- loujain al-hathloul, a saudi activist who led a campaign for women to gain the right to drive in that country, was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison by a special saudi court usually reserved for terrorists and national security crimes.
- the driving ban for women was lifted in 2018 in the kingdom after the campaign garnered international attention.
- al-hathloul has been held in prison since 2018, when she was arrested. with credit for time served and a partially suspended sentence, she could be released in a matter of months.
saudi activist loujain al-hathloul, who was arrested in may 2018, has now been sentenced to a prison term of more than five years. according to saudi news site sabq, after being held continuously since her arrest, she was eventually charged with crimes including using the internet to promote an external agenda in the saudi kingdom, contacting foreign agents (a reference to foreign journalists and human rights organizations), and seeking to change the basic system of governance in saudi arabia. al-hathloul and her family say she has been subjected to torture and inhumane conditions while in prison.
her trial was recently referred to a special court normally reserved for terrorism and other national security crimes, where prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence. she was sentenced yesterday to five years and eight months in prison. two years and ten months of that sentence are suspended, and with credit for time served she could be out of prison in a matter of months. she will then face three years of probation and a five-year travel ban.
as part of her activism, al-hathloul posted videos online starting in 2013 in which her hair and face were uncovered, and one video showed her breaking saudi arabia's law against women driving as she drove herself home from the airport in riyadh, saudi arabia. in 2014, she was arrested and held for 73 days when she attempted to drive into saudi arabia from the united arab emirates. al-hathloul was arrested along with 10 other women's rights activists in may 2018. the country lifted its driving ban to much fanfare the following month. a year later, the saudi government said that 70,000 women in the country of 34 million had driver's licenses.
the united arab emirates' gulf news reported earlier this month that there are few driving schools for women in saudi arabia and that women are charged more than twice the amount male students pay for driving instruction. the paper also quoted a male "consumer rights activist" as saying that his own wife faces a two-year wait for a driving test that would let her drive in saudi arabia, even though she already has a license issued in a neighboring country.