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3 Women's Rights Activists Published From Saudi Arabian Prison: NPR



Three of the Saudi Arabian women released on Thursday appeared in court in Riyadh one day earlier. They have been detained since May and say they have been subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

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AFP / Getty Images

Three of the Saudi Arabian women released on Thursday appeared in court in Riyadh one day earlier. They have been detained since May and say they have been subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

AFP / Getty Images

Saudi Arabian authorities have released three female activists who were imprisoned last year after the campaign to lift the driving ban and dismantle restrictive jurisdictions, report more human rights organizations and news centers.

The conditions for the release of women remain unknown, and initial reports indicate that it is temporary as their attempts continue to move through the criminal court. According to Hala al Dosari, a Saudi writer and activist, families were told not to share release information.

Rokaya Mohareb, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Nafjan were arrested and detained in May, a few weeks before the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman lifted the ban on women. They were originally accused of having ties with foreign intelligence agencies and labeled traitors of state media.

Human Rights Group ALQST announced the woman's release over Twitter and added that the authorities had issued "promises that the others will be released on Sunday 31 March."

Amnesty International's Austrian Director Lynn Maalouf said the end of " 10-month trial "welcome news but called on the right to release the" false charges "against the activists.

"This is a long delayed move since these women should never have been imprisoned in the first place and their release should certainly not be temporary. They have been unlocked, separated from their loved ones, subjected to torture and threats simply peacefully demanding women's rights and expressing their views, "said Maloouf in a statement.

"Amnesty International calls on the Saudi authorities to drop all charges against them and the other women's human rights defenders, all of whom must be released immediately and unconditionally," she added.

The liberated women are among 11 who appeared before a three panel of judges in Riyadh on Wednesday. It was the group's second session in court and they continued to prepare their defense. They also claim that they have been sexually abused and tortured through their prison, which causes a woman to attempt suicide, according to the Associated Press.

Foreign media journalists and other independent observers are excluded from the trial.

Women testified that they had been exposed to caning, electrocution and waterboarding of masked male interrogators who did not identify themselves. "Some women say they were violently touched and groped, made to break their fasting in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and threatened with rape and death," AP said.

Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul, whose lawsuit with other female activists has pulled global outbreaks, was not among those released on Thursday.

Many of the women, including Yousef, Nafjan and Mohareb, are among the country's most prominent figures for women's advocates. The women have exploited their influence on social media and struggled to serve women the right to drive and push the crown prince to end male protection laws that seriously limit women's freedoms. The law requires a man's consent or presence for women to get a passport, travel abroad, marry or undergo certain medical procedures.

International acts of violence over the arrests were immediate, especially in view of the time of Salman's conversion of the driving ban weeks later.

The Crown Prince has repeatedly said he plans to open the conservative country for more freedoms. But critics argue the breakdown of female activists that led to the current experimental actions that Salman has made without real reforms.

Ali al-Ahmed, an explained Saudi opposition leader and director of the Department of Gulf Affairs, told the NPR the release of the three activists "is a product of international pressure" after the arrests and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"It is the current spotlight on Saudi Arabia and [Salman] by the United States and international media that make the kingdom treat these women fairly," said Ahmed.

The intense investigation alleged by Ahmed makes it difficult for the court system to dismiss women's allegations of abuse, and it is likely what led to their cases being moved from a terrorist court to a criminal court – a surprising decision earlier this week .


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