Saudi women arrested for driving will face terrorism court

Women have been detained since December 1 after crossing border from the UAE by car.

A still from a video released by Loujain Al Hathloul shows her driving towards the UAE-Saudi Arabia border before her arrest on December 1, 2014, in Saudi Arabia. Loujain Al Hathloul / AP Photo
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Two Saudi women who flouted the kindom’s ban on females driving were on Thursday referred to a terrorism court after nearly a month in dtention.

Loujain Al Hathloul, 25, and Maysa Al Amoudi, 33, were arrested in the eastern Al Ahsa region on December 1 after driving into Saudi Arabia from the UAE.

They appeared briefly before a local judge on Thursday for only the second time since their arrest.

Activists said this was the first time that women drivers have been referred to the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh, and that their detention was the longest of female drivers in Saudi Arabia.

People close to the two women said they were not being charged for defying the driving ban but for opinions they voiced online. They declined to specifiy the charges due to the sensitivity of the case.

They said the women’s lawyers immediately appealed the judge’s decision to transfer their cases to the terrorism court.

At the time of their arrest, Ms Al Hathloul and Ms Al Amoudi had a combined Twitter following of more than 355,000. They were vocal supporters of a grassroots campaign launched last year to oppose the ban on women driving.

Supporters of the campaign delivered a petition to the royal court this month asking King Abdullah to pardon the women.

Though no laws ban women from driving in Saudi Arabia, authorities do not issue them licences.

Ms Al Hathloul is in a correctional facility for juveniles and Ms Al Amoudi is in a prison. Relatives say they have been allowed to see them for short supervised visits.

There has been no official Saudi comment on their arrests.

* Associated Press