March 1, 2019 / 7:18 PM / 25 days ago

Saudis prepare trials of detainees identified as women's rights activists

CAIRO (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is preparing the trials of detainees, identified by watchdog groups as women’s rights activists, after completing its investigations, state news agency SPA said on Friday.

The report provided few details but referenced a June 2018 statement which said that nine people - five men and four women - were arrested and held on suspicion of harming the country’s interests and offering support to hostile elements abroad.

At the time, international rights groups reported the detention of at least 11 prominent activists, mostly women who previously campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system.

Some were later released, but activists have said that several of the women were held in solitary confinement for months and faced torture and sexual harassment.

A Saudi official has said the allegations of mistreatment and torture of the female detainees were “false ... and have no connection to the truth”.

Dozens of other activists, intellectuals and clerics have been arrested separately in an apparent bid to stamp out opposition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has consolidated power including with a sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

Reporting by Hesham Hajali, writing by Stephen Kalin, editing by Andrew Heavens

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