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Amid Global Outcry, Trials Begin For Jailed Saudi Female Activists

Several Saudi women rights activists jailed for almost a year without charges were put on trial Wednesday, despite a call by 30 countries—including every member of the European Union—for the campaigners to be released. Riyadh has come under intense fire over the cases, with the women having been arrested last May just weeks before the kingdom lifted a ban on female drivers. A Saudi public prosecutor previously said the women were detained on suspicion of supporting hostile foreign elements and state-run media labeled them as traitors and “agents of embassies.” Human rights groups claim that some of those imprisoned were subjected to torture and sexual assault, allegations Saudi authorities vehemently deny. Various analysts have postulated that the beginning of the trials could, somewhat counter-intuitively, indicate progress, as the launch of a judicial process may provide the House of Saud with legal cover to exonerate the women.