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11 February 2021

Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul released from prison

Prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul has been released from a Saudi prison after nearly three years behind bars.

Al-Hathloul, who campaigned to end a ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, was imprisoned in 2018 and sentenced by a court in December to an almost six-year jail term on terrorism-related charges, in a case that drew international condemnation.

Held for 1001 days, with stints in pre-trial detention and solitary confinement, she was found guilty on charges including agitating for change, pursuing a foreign agenda and using the internet to harm public order.

“Loujain is at home !!!!!!” her sister Lina tweeted, posting a screenshot of al-Hathloul on a family video call. Another sister, Alia, said in a separate post that al-Hathloul was at their parents’ home in Saudi Arabia, adding 'this is the best day of my life'.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi authorities on her release.

United Nations human rights experts called the charges 'spurious' and Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the conviction a 'travesty of justice'.

Her early release was widely expected as the judge suspended part of her sentence and gave her credit for time already served.

US President Joe Biden voiced his approval for her release, saying: “She was a powerful advocate for women’s rights and releasing her from prison was the right thing to do."

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