March 24, 2019

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Saudi Arabia Moves Toward Trials of Women’s Rights Activists

Saudi Arabia Moves Toward Trials of Women’s Rights Activists
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The prosecutor’s statement came days after Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, met with Prince Mohammed in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, during a tour of the Middle East to try to build support for his unannounced plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It is unclear whether Mr. Kushner raised Mr. Khashoggi’s killing or the rights activists’ case during the meeting.

Both cases have strained relations with many countries in the West, including with Canada, whose ambassador was expelled from the kingdom after Canada’s Foreign Ministry called for the activists’ release.

Friday’s statement angered relatives of the detainees.

“Can we know the results of the investigation and the torture before the detained women are transferred to trial?” Walid al-Hathloul, whose sister Loujain al-Hathloul is among the detainees, wrote on Twitter. “If there was a confession, it was a confession under torture.”

Any formal legal action against the group would face questions and doubts abroad because of allegations that, after their arrests, the activists were held in private facilities and beaten, electrocuted, insulted and sexually harassed. The abuse of one detainee was so severe that she tried to kill herself, according to people briefed on her case who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

In January, the sister of Ms. al-Hathloul, one of the most prominent of the detainees, wrote in an Op-Ed in The New York Times that during a family visit, her sister “was shaking uncontrollably, unable to hold her grip, to walk or sit normally.”

Her parents asked her about torture on a later visit and she said she had been “held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder,” the sister, Alia al-Hathloul, wrote.

In an interview on Saturday, she said an investigator had recently forced her sister to sign a letter written in her name asking for a pardon from the king. She said it was unclear whether the government was really planning to try the activists or was seeking a way to end a case that has tarnished Prince Mohammed’s reputation as a reformer and advocate for women’s rights.

“They are unpredictable,” Ms. al-Hathloul said of kingdom officials.

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