Saudi activist, UBC alumna Loujain al-Hathloul sentenced to five years prison, eligible for early-2021 release

UBC alumna Loujain al-Hathloul has been sentenced by a Saudi Arabian court to five years and eight months in prison for terrorism offences, but will likely be released in March 2021.

Her sister, Lina al-Hathloul wrote on Twitter that the Specialised Criminal Court suspended Loujain’s sentence by two years and ten months, and as Loujain has already spent over two years in prison, she may only have two to three months of her sentence left.

The court also placed a five-year travel ban on Loujain. Both she and the public prosecutor are still able to appeal the decision. Lina al-Hathloul wrote on her Twitter that Loujain will appeal the sentence and ask for an investigation regarding alleged torture by the Saudi government.

Loujain al-Hathloul, a women’s rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was arrested in 2018 for defying Saudi Arabia’s now-repealed ban on women driving. She graduated from UBC in 2014.

UBC student unions recently sent an open letter to the federal government in solidarity with al-Hathloul, asking Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne to continue advocating for her rights.

The AMS said that it will continue to press Ottawa for stronger action toward Loujain’s release.

“We are extremely [disappointed] and disheartened to hear about Loujain al-Hathloul’s prison sentencing; it is a travesty of justice,” said AMS VP External Kalith Nanayakkara in an emailed statement on December 30.

“As a bold and courageous champion for women’s rights, Loujain al-Hathloul is the embodiment of what a former AMS member and UBC alumnus should be — a strong and bold advocate for positive change on a mission to make the world a better place.”

UBC responded on December 28, saying it was “profoundly disappointed” by the news of al-Hathloul’s sentencing.

“This week, UBC has written again to Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, to press for Ms. Al-Hathloul’s release and to offer UBC’s assistance,” President Santa Ono wrote in the press release.

Ono praised al-Hathloul’s demonstration of UBC’s commitment to free speech, equality, education, global citizenship and the advancement of a just and equitable society.

“We remain hopeful that Ms. Al-Hathloul will be released imminently and that she will be able to reunite with her family and loved ones, and enjoy personal and political freedoms without the threat of persecution,” Ono wrote.

This article has been updated to include a statement from the AMS. This article was further updated to include comment from UBC.