Saudi appeals court rejects rights activist claim she was tortured in jail, family says

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DUBAI (Reuters) - A Saudi appeals court has rejected the claim of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul that she was tortured in jail, members of her family said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Hathloul, 31, was detained in 2018 and sentenced by a Saudi court in December to an almost six year jail term, some of which was suspended, in a case that has drawn international condemnation. That month another court dismissed allegations that she was tortured, citing a lack of evidence.

“The appeal maintains its first decision: denies the torture. The reason? The burden of proof is on Loujain,” wrote her sister, Lina.

Rights groups and her family say Hathloul, who campaigned for women’s right to drive and to end the kingdom’s male guardianship system, was subjected to abuse, including electric shocks, waterboarding, flogging and sexual assault.

Saudi authorities have denied the charges.

The White House earlier this month said U.S. President Joe Biden expects Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record, including releasing women’s rights activists and other political prisoners.

Hathloul was convicted by Riyadh’s Specialised Criminal Court on charges including seeking to change the Saudi political system and harming national security. United Nations human rights experts have called the charges “spurious”.

The court suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence of five years and eight months - most of which she has already served since her arrest. Once released, Hathloul faces a five-year travel ban.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Catherine Evans, William Maclean