JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecutor and the attorney for Loujain Al-Hathloul, sentenced to 68 months in prison under counterterrorism laws, will both file an appeal against the verdict of the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, sources told Arab News.
The Public Prosecutor is seeking a harsher sentence while her lawyer wants the conviction dropped after Al-Hathloul was found guilty of involvement in a number of criminal activities.
The court suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence of five years and eight months. The verdict was pronounced in an open session attended by Al-Hathloul, her family, her lawyer, members of the local press and the Saudi Human Rights Commission.
The court convicted Al-Hathloul of committing criminal acts under Article 43 of the Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, such as incitement to change the Kingdom’s government system, seeking to carry out a foreign agenda from inside the Kingdom using the Internet with the aim of jeopardizing public order, and cooperating with individuals and entities that have committed terrorist criminal acts.
The judge said that the defendant had confessed to committing the crimes and her confessions were documented voluntarily without force or coercion, and that no proof was found that the confession was extracted under torture as she had claimed in previous hearings.
The court said that it suspended part of her sentence to pave the way for Al-Hathloul’s rehabilitation. The ruling highlighted that if she committed any crime within the next three years, the suspension would be canceled.
The court’s decision included the application of the accessory penalty stipulated in Article 53 of the Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing. This means confiscating the electronic devices and media referred to in the seizure that the defendant used in committing her crimes.
Legal adviser Naif Al-Subaie said that the judgment issued against the defendant was a preliminary ruling and subject to appeal within 30 days from the date of the formal receipt of the verdict from the court, not from the date of the pronouncement of the judgment.
Al-Subaie added that in the event of an appeal, the case would be transferred to the Court of Appeal, comprised of three judges who would look into the verdict against the defendant, the case file, the evidence presented by the Public Prosecutor, and the defendant’s confession before they rejected or supported the judgment.
He said that the defendant was also entitled to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Another legal adviser, Mohammed Al-Mahmoud, said that the verdict stipulated that Al-Hathloul would be imprisoned for 68 months from the date of her arrest in June 2018, and half the period (34 months) would be suspended.
Al-Mahmoud added that in the event that the judgment is appealed, there are these possibilities: The verdict issued by the court is supported, the sentence is increased — in this case, the defendant will be summoned to serve the remaining period, or the sentence is reduced — in this case, the defendant is entitled to compensation for the days she has spent in prison beyond her sentence.
However, if Al-Hathloul reoffended she would be tried for the new crimes in addition to having to serve the suspended period of the current sentence, he said.
The Criminal Court rejected a lawsuit filed by Al-Hathloul alleging she was tortured in prison. The court rejected this following investigations by the Public Prosecution, which involved interrogation of prison officials and fellow detainees.
The Public Prosecution also reviewed the recordings of the surveillance cameras during the period of Al-Hathloul’s hunger strike in Al-Ha’ir prison as she claimed that she was tortured by being deprived of sleep.