Saudi prosecutors say women's rights activists to face trial after custodial torture

Several people with knowledge of their arrest have told AP that some of the women detained have been subjected to caning, electrocution and others were also sexually assaulted.

Published: 02nd March 2019 11:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd March 2019 11:04 AM   |  A+A-

Saudi women arrive at a stadium to attend an event in the capital Riyadh on September 23, 2017 commemorating the anniversary of the founding of the kingdom.|AFP

Image for representational purpose only.

By Associated Press

DUBAI: Prosecutors in Saudi Arabia have referred detained women's rights activists to trial, saying those charged "enjoy all rights preserved by the laws in the kingdom" after them being reportedly tortured in custody.

Prosecutors issued the statement late Friday night, referring to their earlier June statement that marked the activists' arrest just before Saudi Arabia granted women the right to drive.

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Prosecutors alleged those arrested had the "aim to undermine the kingdom's security, stability, and national unity."

Several people with knowledge of their arrest have told AP that some of the women detained have been subjected to caning, electrocution and others were also sexually assaulted.

All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal and to protect personal details about the detainees.

The Saudi government did not respond to questions about the women's cases early Saturday.

The women, who include activists in their 20s as well as mothers, grandmothers and retired professors, have been accused of vague national security violations in connection to their human rights work.

Canadian criticism of the arrests saw Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties to Ottawa.

Human rights groups have criticized the arrests, which come amid a series of crackdowns led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman.

"The Saudi prosecution is bringing charges against the women's rights activists instead of releasing them unconditionally," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"The Saudi authorities have done nothing to investigate serious allegations of torture, and now, it's the women's rights activists, not any torturers, who face criminal charges and trials."

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 Prince Mohammed's entourage, as well as over its yearslong war in Yemen.

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