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Nearly a year after the arrest, Saudi Arabian women's activists stand trial

Ten Saudi Arabian women went to court for the first time on Wednesday after being arrested last year in a case that intensified the worldwide control of the Kingdom's human rights records after the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.

Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, and Hatoon Al-Fassi were among the women who appeared in the capital, Riyadh, in the capital, where the indictment was brought against them, said the court's president, Ibrahim Ali. Sayari.

He spoke to reporters and diplomats who were excluded from attending the meeting.

The women are among about a dozen prominent women activists arrested last May in the weeks before the Conservative Kingdom banned women from driving.

At the time of the arrests, the prosecutor said five men and four women had been convicted on suspicion of violating the interests of the country and supported hostile elements abroad. State-supported media described them as traitors and "agents of embassies" and disturbed foreign diplomats in the important US ally.

Al-Hathloul's brother tweeted late Tuesday that the family had been informed that the trial had been charged with the criminal court in front of the Specialized Criminal Court, which was set up to deal with "terrorism," but often used for political crimes becomes. It was not clear what was behind the decision.

The Procuratorate of the Kingdom still has not specified the indictment. According to Amnesty International, al-Hathloul had no access to legal representation.

"We fear she will face charges of peaceful human rights work on terrorist charges and will be brought to justice," Amnesty tweeted.

Translation: After 10 months in prison and half an hour before the trial opens, Loujain finally knows what the charges against her are No one knows what the formal charges is.

& # 39; torture exposed & # 39;

Last week, three dozen countries, including all 28 members of the European Union, called on Riyadh to release the activists in a rare blame over the wealthy oil kingdom of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his British counterpart have said they raised the issue with the Saudi authorities during recent visits.

Activists say some of the detainees, including al-Hathloul, have been held in solitary confinement and tortured and tortured, including electric shocks, flogging and sexual assault. Saudi officials have denied these allegations.

Other detainees include [1] Nouf Abdelaziz, Maya al-Zahrani, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Saada, Shadan al-Onezi, Amal al-Harbi, and Mohammed al-Rabia. 19659004] Al-Hathloul, who had called for an end to the driving ban and the male guardianship system of the kingdom, had previously been arrested twice. In 2014, she was detained for 73 days after attempting to travel to Saudi Arabia from the neighboring United Arab Emirates.

] This November 2014, from a video released by Loujain al-Hathloul, shows her driving towards the border between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia before her first arrest. [Screenshot/Loujain al-Hathloul/]

The graduate of the University of British Columbia was ranked third by the magazine Arabian Business in the ranking of one of the most powerful Arab women in 2015 in recognition of her fearless activism.

Al-Nafjan and al-Yousef participated in a protest against the 2013 driving ban. Al-Yousef also wrote a petition, which al-Nafjan and al-Hathloul signed in 2016 to end the male guardianship, according to which women must seek the consent of a male relative for all important life decisions.

Activists and diplomats have speculated that the arrests may have aimed to soften conservative elements to social reforms by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman . They may also have been intended as a message to activists not to reconcile demands with the government's own agenda.

The Prince has asked the West for support to support its reform movement, but its reputation has been tarnished after Saudi agent Khashoggi, a Royal Insider, became a critic last October at the Consulate of the Kingdom of Istanbul.

Dozens of other activists, intellectuals and clerics have been arrested separately over the past two years to dispel possible resistance.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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