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Saudi women’s rights activist released from prison after nearly 3 years

(Asian News Hub) – Loujain al-Hathloul, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights campaigners, was released on Wednesday after spending over 1,000 days in prison for what critics have called as politically-motivated charges.

Hathloul will remain on probation for three years following her release, during which time she could be arrested for any perceived illegal activity and she will also be banned from traveling for five years, her family said in a statement in December last year, reported CNN.

The 31-year-old activist was arrested in a May 2018 sweep that targeted well-known opponents of the kingdom’s since-rescinded law barring women from driving.

In December 2020, Riyadh’s Specialized Criminal Court had sentenced Hathloul to five years and eight months in prison, including a two-year and 10-month suspension, according to her family’s statement.

With the time she had already served, the sentencing paved the way for Hathloul’s release on Wednesday.

Release political prisoners: US to Saudi Arabia
Hathloul’s release comes after the White House has called on Saudi Arabia to release political prisoners, including women’s rights activists with President Joe Biden has vowed to pressure Saudi Arabia into improving its rights record, according to CNN.

‘We’re excited (about her release), but the fight for justice is not over yet… We would have to work very hard to secure justice for Loujain, but we’re very delighted for this news,’ Hathloul’s brother, Walid al-Hathloul, told CNN before the announcement.

‘Any release that does not include an independent investigation of the charges, does not include lifting the travel ban, does not include dropping the charges, is not freedom… Therefore we’re far away from justice,’ he added.

The terrorism court convicted Hathloul on charges of harming national security, seeking to change the Saudi political system, and using her relations with foreign governments and rights groups to ‘pressure the Kingdom to change its laws and systems,’ according to a charge sheet her family published earlier in December. United Nations (UN) experts called the charges ‘spurious.’

CNN further reported Hathloul saying that she was sexually assaulted and tortured while in detention, including waterboarding, flogging and electrocution, according to multiple statements released by her family and supporters.
Saudi terrorism court

A 2019 American Bar Association Center for Human Rights report said that although the Saudi terrorism court was created in 2008 to prosecute terrorism detainees, its ‘caseload was quickly expanded from alleged violent extremists to include political dissidents, religious minorities and human rights activists.’

During her detention, Hathloul received multiple awards, including the 2019 PEN America award.

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Violence flares at al-Aqsa mosque as Israel marks Jerusalem Day, 275 Palestinians injured

(Asian News Hub) – Palestinian protesters threw rocks and Israeli police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets in clashes outside al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on Monday, as Israel marked the anniversary of its capture of parts of the city in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said more than 275 Palestinians were injured in the violence, and at least 205 of them were taken to hospitals. Several of the Palestinians were in critical condition and police said 12 officers were injured.

Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest site, has been a focal point of violence in Jerusalem throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The clashes have raised international concern.

Tensions were particularly high as Israel marked “Jerusalem Day”, its annual celebration of the capture of East Jerusalem and the walled Old City that is home to Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy places.

In an effort to ease the situation, Israeli police said they had banned Jewish groups from paying Jerusalem Day visits to the holy plaza that houses al-Aqsa, and which Jews revere as the site of biblical Jewish temples.

Police were also considering whether to reroute a traditional Jerusalem Day march in which thousands of Israeli flag-waving Jewish youth walk through the Old City’s Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter.

Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at hundreds of Palestinians who hurled rocks at them on al-Aqsa’s stone-strewn plaza, witnesses said.

The violence at the holy compound abated several hours after it began and witnesses said Israeli police had begun allowing Palestinians over the age of 40 to enter.

In public remarks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was determined to uphold law and order in Jerusalem while preserving “freedom of worship and tolerance for all”.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, accused “Israeli occupation forces” of conducting a “brutal raid” at al-Aqsa.

Israel views all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern part that it annexed in a move that has not won international recognition. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they seek in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Tensions have also been fuelled by the planned evictions of several Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
Israel’s attorney-general secured a deferment on Sunday of a Supreme Court hearing on Monday in the long-running evictions case that had threatened to stoke more violence.

A lower court had found in favour of Jewish settlers’ claim to the land on which the Palestinians’ homes are located, a decision seen by Palestinians as an attempt by Israel to drive them out of contested Jerusalem.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan expressed “serious concerns” about the situation in Jerusalem, including the potential evictions, in a call with his Israeli counterpart on Sunday.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also expressed on Sunday his concern over the situation.

Reuters

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Saudi Arabia announces first day of Ramadan 2021

The moon-sighting committee said that the crescent moon had not been sighted

(Asian News Hub) – The first day of Ramadan will be April 13, Tuesday, the moon sighting committee in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday evening. The committee added that the crescent moon had not been sighted.

Accordingly, Monday, April 12, will be the last day of Shaban 1442 Hijri.

Sunday marks the 29th day of Shaban, the month before Ramadan according to the Islamic calendar. Ramadan lasts for one complete moon cycle, which is usually 29 or 30 days. The moon sighting determines the duration.

AGENCY

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At least 32 killed in Egypt train crash

(Asian News Hub) – At least 32 people were killed and 66 others wounded in Egypt’s southern province of Sohag when two trains collided on Friday, according to a government statement that feared the number might rise.

The Egypt Health Ministry statement said at least 36 ambulances were sent to the scene and they transferred the wounded to four public hospitals nearby.

The rear end of a passenger train crashed into another with the air-conditioning system in Tahta city, 467 km from here, causing at least three carriages to be derailed, an official security source told Xinhua news agency on condition of anonymity.

“The accident was horrible, and the people helped the security men find the wounded inside the damaged carriages,” an eyewitness said.

Some bodies were still stuck inside the three carriages, he added.

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