A friend of the Duchess of Sussex is facing a lengthy stint in jail.
A friend of the Duchess of Sussex is facing a lengthy stint in jail.

Meghan’s mate in prison shock

A WOMEN'S rights activist and close friend of Meghan Markle faces 20 years in a Saudi jail after allegedly confessing to conspiring with enemies of the nation.

Loujain Al-Hathloul, 28, who once posed for a Vanity Fair shoot with The Duchess of Sussex, is among nine women held after a brutal crackdown in May.

It came just as the desert kingdom was about to allow women to drive for the first time.

Campaigners wanted to use that new freedom as a springboard for further reforms including ending Saudi Arabia's restrictive male guardianship system and allowing more freedom of speech, reports The Sun.

But instead they were rounded up, thrown in jail and now face charges of treason that carry the harshest prison sentence - or even the death penalty.

Kareem Chehayeb, Saudi Arabia researcher for Amnesty International, said: "The Saudi authorities don't want any change to come from below. They want to stifle any form of dissent or human rights activism.

"It appears that the only reforms that are acceptable are those that are coming from above, which is absolutely outrageous."

Al-Hathloul's arrest came two years after she attended a One Young World humanitarian summit with Meghan Markle, Emma Watson, Cher and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

In one picture Meghan was in a group of four posing by the water's edge with Al-Hathloul, the poet Fatima Bhutto and former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

Writing about the summit at the time, Meghan said: "One Young World invites young adults from all over the world who are actively working to transform the sociopolitical landscape by being the greater good

"They are delegates who are speaking out against human rights violations, environmental crises, gender equality issues, discrimination and injustice. They are the change."

In March, al-Hathloul was stopped by police as she drove near her university in Abu Dhabi.

They put her on a plane back to Saudi Arabia where she was banned from leaving the country or using social media.

Despite not posting any more tweets, she was among seven Saudis detained two months later, five women and two men who had supported their cause, including a lawyer who had represented al-Hathloul in the past.

Yesterday, Amnesty International revealed the Riyadh authorities claimed the prisoners confessed to communicating with Saudi Arabia's enemies and "providing financial and moral support to hostile elements abroad" on June 2.

Mr Chehayeb said the group would now be brought before the Specialised Criminal Court to face charges which amounted to treason, the penalty for which is 20 years in jail, or even the death sentence.

"They have been arrested purely based on their women's rights activism and these are trumped up charges for which they could get 20 years in jail.

"We don't know the conditions in which they are being kept, we don't know if they have access to lawyers during these interrogations when they allegedly confessed to these crimes.

"With treason you cannot rule out the death penalty but we anticipate they will be given harsh prison sentences based on trumped-up security-related charges."

As well as Al-Hathloul, the other activists being held include Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Ibrahim al-Modeimegh, Mohammad al-Rabea and Mohammed al-Bajadi.

 

This article originally was published on The Sun and is republished here with permission.



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