Eman al Nafjan, a women’s rights advocate who kept a blog called Saudiwoman, was released provisionally after the second hearing in her trial before a criminal court in Riyadh yesterday. She had been held since May 2018 on charges of “suspicious contacts with foreign entities,” harming national interests and helping “enemies of the state.”
Three other journalists, columnists and women’s rights activists held since the spring of 2018 – Nouf Abdelaziz al Jerawi, Hatoon al-Fassi and Nassima al Sada – are to be released by 31 March, according to information posted on Twitter by the Saudi human rights organization ALQST.
“We are extremely relieved to learn of the release of these women bloggers and journalists,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “These releases, which must now become definitive, confirm the correctness of the fight we have been waging for many months for the dozens of journalists arbitrarily detained in Saudi Arabia, whose only crime was daring to make their dissident views heard.”
RSF has been campaigning for the immediate release of the professional and non-professional journalists imprisoned in Saudi Arabia ever since the start of a big wave of arrests of Saudi journalists and human rights defenders in the autumn of 2017, and even more so after Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in October 2018.
RSF referred these cases to United Nations secretary-general António Guterres and to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, and began a series of long-term advocacy contacts with the Saudi, French, German and British authorities.
More than 25 professional and non-professional journalists are currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, which is ranked 169th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.