Saudi Arabia approves provisional release women activists

Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor Shalaan bin Rajih Al Shalaansaid the group faced charges of cooperating with those "hostile to the kingdom"

FILE- In this Saturday March 29, 2014 file photo, a woman drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving. Saudi Arabia authorities announced Tuesday Sept. 26, 2017, that women will be allowed to drive for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom from next summer, fulfilling a key demand of women's rights activists who faced detention for defying the ban.  (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, FILE)

Saudi Arabia provisionally released three women activists on Thursday following the start of their trial, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.

The women were part of a group arrested for what the public prosecutor’s office said was “coordinated activity to undermine the security, stability and social peace of the kingdom”.

In March, Saudi official statements announced the trial of five men and four women who had been held since June 2, 2018, was set to begin. The trial began this week in Riyadh, but the official charges have not been made public.

The SPA report said that the criminal court in Riyadh had approved the provisional release of the three but added that their case would continue and they would be required to continue to attend court. It said that the court examined requests for their release and obtained the “necessary regulatory controls”.

Among those detained are at least three women, who have long campaigned against the driving ban, since May 15 last year. They have been identified by rights groups as Loujain Al Hathloul, Aziza Al Yousef and Eman Al Nafjan.

Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor Shalaan bin Rajih Al Shalaan told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in March that “the detainees enjoy all their rights, including communications and visits”.

He also denied reports by rights groups that the activists had been tortured saying they had all been treated in accordance with the law.

Mr Al Shalaan said the group faced charges of cooperating with those "hostile to the kingdom" and for allegedly recruiting "persons in a sensitive government entity to obtain information and official documents." He did not elaborate on the accusations.