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Despite Global Uproar, Defiant Riyadh Prepares To Put Jailed Activists On Trial

Rights groups strongly condemned Saudi Arabia’s move to put on trial activists jailed for almost a year without charges. Riyadh’s public prosecution announced the decision over the weekend, referring to court about a dozen detainees including numerous women campaigners for the right to drive in the kingdom. Some of those arrested—notably, just one month before the lifting of the longstanding ban on female drivers—allegedly were tortured and sexually harassed during interrogation. They have been accused of aiding enemies of the state, although many view developments as a continuation of the royal family’s history of quashing dissent. Still others postulate that the activists could be released under the cover of the upcoming judicial process; this, amid growing international pressure on Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The young heir to the Saudi thrown burst onto the scene by painting himself as a reformer but has since come under heavy fire for his crackdown on political opponents; his country’s involvement in the war in Yemen; and, most recently, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.