Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul goes on trial in Riyadh

Jailed Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul

(CNN)The trial of Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent Saudi women's rights activist, began on Wednesday, according to her family.

The 29-year-old was arrested in March of last year as she was driving down a highway in the United Arab Emirates, where she had been living.
She was then sent to Saudi Arabia and detained. Hathloul was released days later, only to be arrested again a few weeks later in a sweep that targeted 10 women's right-to-drive activists. 
    Hathloul has allegedly been tortured and has not been allowed legal representation.
    While no formal charges have been published, the official Saudi Press Agency said Hathloul and the women's rights activists were accused of "suspicious contact with foreign entities."
    Other state-aligned media reported that the women were accused of violating Royal Decree 44a, under which dissidents can face terrorism charges punishable by between three and 20 years' imprisonment.
    The arrests were lauded in the kingdom's mainstream press, where government-aligned media published photos of the detained activists and branded them "traitors."
    Hathloul's brother, Walid al-Hathloul, told CNN that she has not had access to a lawyer and that, prior to her trial, she was not aware of the charges against her.
    Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.
    Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia was collectively rebuked at the United Nations Human Rights Council for the first time. A statement, signed by 36 countries, called on the kingdom to release human rights activists.
    The statement cited Hathloul, as well as other detained women's rights activists, as individuals detained "for exercising their fundamental freedoms."
    Hathloul was originally told she would be tried in a terror court in Riyadh, according to her family, but she was notified that the trial was being moved to a criminal court just eight hours before it began. Initial reports that Hathloul would be tried in a court that normally deals with terrorist offenses heightened speculation that she would receive a harsh sentence.
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