Loujain Al-Hathloul

RIYADH: A Saudi court yesterday handed prominent activist Loujain Al-Hathloul a prison term of five years and eight months for terrorism-related crimes, but a suspended sentence will allow her release within months, her family said. Hathloul, 31, was arrested in May 2018 with about a dozen other women activists just weeks before the historic lifting of a decades-long ban on female drivers, a reform they had long campaigned for.

The women's rights activist was convicted of "various activities prohibited by the anti-terrorism law", the pro-government online outlet Sabq and other media allowed to attend her trial cited the court as saying. The court handed down a prison term of five years and eight months, but suspended two years and 10 months of the sentence "if she does not commit any crime" within the next three years, they added.

"A suspension of 2 years and 10 months in addition to the time already served (since May 2018) would see her (released) in approximately two months," Lina Al-Hathloul, the activist's sister, wrote on Twitter. Another source close to her family and the London-based campaign group ALQST said she would be released by March next year. The court also banned the activist from leaving the kingdom for five years, her sister and the source said.

A motion to appeal can be filed within a month, local media reported. After being tried in Riyadh's criminal court, Hathloul's trial was transferred last month to the Specialized Criminal Court, or the anti-terrorism court. Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told AFP that Hathloul was accused of contacting "unfriendly" states and providing classified information, but her family said no evidence to support the allegations had been put forward. - AFP