11/06/2020, 09.47
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UN Committee to King Salman: free Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul

The 31-year-old is on hunger strike and her health conditions are progressively deteriorating. In prison she allegedly suffered abuse and mistreatment, whipping and electroshock. Authorities deny regular contact with her family. The request for release in view of the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day .

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A United Nations committee for women's rights is sounding the alarm over the progressive deterioration of the health conditions of Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who is on hunger strike to protest against prison conditions.

The 31-year-old, at the forefront of women’s struggle for the right to drive in the Wahhabi kingdom, began refusing food last month, denouncing the restrictions and abuses she is subjected to in her cell.

By relaunching her case, the UN committee addresses King Salman directly, calling for her immediate release.

Loujain al-Hathloul fought in the campaign first-hand and was arrested before the ban was lifted in June 2018. Saudi authorities indicted her for violating national security rules in the context of a larger operation. aimed at repressing activist movements, especially women's movements.

According to her relatives, the woman was in solitary confinement for three months following her arrest and was subjected to electric shocks, lashes and sexual abuse. Her jailers reportedly offered her release on the condition that she denied she had been tortured in her cell.

The Saudi government rejects the claims she suffered abuse. Among the charges ascribed in the trial phase is having asked for an end to male protection, having contacted international organizations and UN diplomats and foreigners. While remanding her in prison, so far the judges have not issued a sentence.

On 26 October, Hathloul began a hunger strike over the conditions of her detention, which reportedly include not being allowed to have regular contact with her family or to exercise regularly "Loujain cannot survive in prison when she doesn't know what tomorrow is made of," her sister Lina told the BBC World Service. "She doesn't know when the next visit will be. She doesn't if it's going to be in a year's time or if it's going to be tomorrow... She said: 'I will either die, or I'm at least allowed to hear my parents on a regular basis.'"

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which comprises 23 independent experts from around the world, said in a statement issued on Thursday that it was "gravely concerned about Ms Hathloul's physical and mental health and well-being." "We urge the Saudi authorities to protect her rights to life, health, and liberty and security of person at all times, while fully respecting her freedoms of conscience and expression, including by going on hunger strike," it added.  The committee appealed to King Salman Al Saud to use his royal prerogative powers to ensure her release from detention ahead of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day.


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