Saudi activist ‘offered freedom if she denies torture claims’

Demonstrators from Amnesty International stage the protest on International Women's dayImage copyright

Image caption

Loujain al-Hathloul and several other activists are currently in jail, despite a partial overturn of the “male guardianship” system they have fought against

A jailed Saudi women’s rights activist has been offered release if she agrees to say she was not tortured, her sister has alleged.

Loujain al-Hathloul, who campaigned to win Saudi women the right to drive, was detained this year for conspiring with “hostile entities”.

Her family says she has been tortured and sexually assaulted in custody, which the Saudi government denies.

Officials have so far not responded to BBC questions about the new claims.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Loujain al-Hathloul’s sister Lina – who is based in Brussels – first revealed details of the supposed deal.

Ms Hathloul has became one of the faces of women’s rights campaigning in the kingdom.

In 2014, she rose to social media fame after live-tweeting her attempt to drive across the Saudi-UAE border.

She has also campaigned against the system of “male guardianship”, which gives authority to a woman’s father, brother, husband or son to make critical decisions on her behalf.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Lina Al Hathloul is campaigning to free her sister, Loujain

The system was partially dismantled this month, but Ms Hathloul and several others are still being held in prison under Saudi cyber-crime laws.

Four women have alleged they were tortured while in detention, including with electric shocks, whippings, and sexual assault. The Saudi deputy public prosecutor has said the allegations are false.

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Media captionSaudi women hit the road after a decades-old ban is lifted

Demands for the women’s release have come from around the world, including the UN.

Scrutiny of human rights in the kingdom has also intensified since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate last year.

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But Saudi officials have accused critics of interfering in the Gulf kingdom’s domestic affairs “under the guise of defending human rights”.

Last August, Saudi Arabia froze trade ties with Canada and expelled its ambassador in response to calls to release the detained activists.

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