Saudi Arabia: two women’s rights activists released from prison

Two Saudi women’s rights campaigners have been released from prison, three years after a sweeping crackdown by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman targeting female activists who’d peacefully advocated for greater freedoms, rights groups said Sunday.

It now appears that all the women’s rights activists detained in the 2018 sweep have now been released from prison, although the status of one woman remains unclear.The women had been sentenced to five years imprisonment, two of which were suspended.

They had been vocal critics of Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship laws, which gave husbands, fathers and in some cases a woman’s own son control over her ability to obtain a passport and travel.

They had also advocated for the right of women to drive. Both restrictions have since been lifted. Most of the women detained in the crown prince’s campaign were arrested in May 2018, but Badawi and al-Sada were detained several weeks later in July of that year.

Nearly a dozen of the women previously told Saudi judges they were caned on their backs and thighs, electrocuted and waterboarded by masked men during interrogations. Some women say they were forcibly touched and groped, and threatened with rape and death. One of the women attempted suicide in prison.

The Saudi government has not commented on the individual cases of most of the women nor publicized their charges. Several of the Saudi men who supported women’s rights activists remain detained.