Thursday, December 11, 2014

Saudi Arabia -Two women human rights defenders continue to remain in detention for attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia

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11 December 2014

11 December 2014 marks the 10th day since the arrest and detention of two women human rights defenders Ms Maysaa Al-Amodi and MsLujain Al-Hathlol. On 7 December 2014 they were both informed that their detention has been extended for an additional 25 days. Both defenders were detained on 1 December 2014 for attempting to drive over the Saudi border. Maysaa Al-Amodi is currently being held at Al- Ahsa Central Prison while Lujain Al-Hathlol is held at Al- Ahsa juvenile centre for girls. The human rights defenders, as well as their families and their lawyers, are unaware of any official charges against them.

Maysaa Al-Amodi and Lujain Al-Hathlol are women's rights defenders who have advocated for the right for women to drive in Saudi Arabia.Lujain Al-Hathlol actively participated in the 26 October Saudi Women Driving Campaign and she posted videos of herself encouraging women to drive their cars within the context of this campaign in 2013. Maysaa Al-Amodi, who is a TV host and well known media personality, was alsovocal about the right to drive.

On 30 November 2014, Lujain Al-Hathlol drove to the Saudi border from Abu Dhabi and attempted to cross into Saudi Arabia. Although she carries a UAE driving license that is valid in all Gulf Council Countries, she was asked by the Saudi authorities to park her car at the Al-Batha border crossing until they received further notice from superiors. While they awaited this, her passport was confiscated and she was held inside her car at the border crossing overnight.

On 1 December 2014, Maysaa Al-Amodi drove from Dubai to the border crossing to bring supplies to Lujain Al-Hathlol without the intention of crossing the border to Saudi Arabia. It was reported that she parked on the UAE side of the border crossing and walked over to the border guards where she informed them that she did not intend to cross the border. She was asked by the border guards to get back into her car and to make a U-turn to return back to Dubai, which involved having to cross over the border in order to complete the U-turn. Once she crossed the border, she was immediately arrested by female officers and her car, personal items and documents were confiscated. Similarly, the following day Lujain Al-Hathlol was informed that she would be allowed to cross the border. However, once she had driven across, she was also arrested.They were taken directly to prison, Maysaa Al-Amodi was taken to Al- Ahsa Central prison and Lujain Al-Hathlol to Al- Ahsa juvenile centre for girls, a detention centre for women under the age of thirty. Since their detention, they have been interrogated by the Prosecution Office.

The two human rights defenders have not been granted access to legal representation since their detention and their lawyers have not been given access to the investigation files.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the detention of Maysaa Al-Amodi and Lujain Al-Hathlol and the fact that they have not had contact with their lawyers whilst in detention. Front Line Defenders believes that their arrest and detention is a direct result of their human rights activism.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

* Immediately and unconditionally release Maysaa Al-Amodi and Lujain Al-Hathlol, as it is believed that they are being held solely as a result of their defence of the right for women to drive in Saudi Arabia;

* Allow Maysaa Al-Amodi and Lujain Al-Hathlol immediate and unfettered access to their lawyers, who must be granted access to the investigation files;

* Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.