May 22, 2018
Saudi Arabia is holding and interrogating at least 10 women’s rights activists – seven women and three men – without any access to lawyers, according to people familiar with the arrests.
The detentions are seen as a culmination of a steady crackdown on perceived critics of the government and come just a month before the ultra-conservative kingdom is set to lift the world’s only ban on women driving.
People familiar with the arrests say the activists were allowed just one phone call to worried relatives a week ago, and that one of the women has been held entirely incommunicado.
The sweep began a week ago, on May 15, when police detained the 10 in the capital, Riyadh, and transferred them to the city of Jiddah. Their exact whereabouts now are unknown. Saudi media say the arrests were carried out by forces from the Presidency of State Security, a body that reports directly to the king and crown prince.
Al-Mudaimigh is a lawyer who defended al-Hathloul during her detention in 2015 for attempting to cross the UAE-Saudi border while driving. He has supported human rights defenders in court and offered legal representation to activists in the kingdom.
He’s also represented Waleed Abulkhair, a human rights lawyer now serving a 15-year sentence who’d represented Raif Badawi, a blogger who was publicly flogged in 2015 and is serving 10 years in prison.
Activists say al-Mudaimigh, who ran his own practice, was one of the few lawyers in Saudi Arabia willing to defend human rights activists since others have either fled or been detained.
Saudi female activists arrested, barred from accessing lawyers: sources