Rights group calls for release of Saudi activists

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An international human rights group is calling on Saudi Arabia to overturn the conviction of two women jailed for inciting a wife to defy the authority of her husband.

Equality Now said Saudi women’s rights activists Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were sentenced to 10 months in prison last month and banned from travelling outside of Saudi Arabia for two years following their prison terms.

It said they were found guilty on a Sharia law charge of takhbib — incitement of a wife to defy the authority of her husband.

It was alleged they were convicted because they brought food to a Canadian woman and her children, who had allegedly been abused by the woman’s Saudi husband.

Equality Now said they are in the process of filing an appeal to this unjust conviction, which is due to be heard on July 12.

Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Middle East/North Africa consultant, Equality Now, said in a statement: "We are calling on Saudi Arabia to immediately overturn the unjust conviction of women’s rights activists Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni. 

"Their sentencing to 10 months in prison and travel ban for two years for trying to help a starving woman who called for help is deeply unfair.

"We ask that in future no charges are brought against human rights activists who work peacefully to promote human rights. Women like Wajeha and Fawzia are heroes; they regularly put themselves at risk by fighting against incredible odds to ensure a better world.

"We urgently demand that laws which discriminate against women and girls as part of the unnecessary male guardianship system are changed to ensure that all members of society can reach their full potential. Changing these harmful laws would benefit not only women and girls but everyone in society."

Equality Now insisted there are no grounds for the charge and Al-Huwaider had been targeted for her involvement in the 'Women2Drive' campaign in Saudi Arabia.

Working with women’s and human rights organisations and individual activists since 1992, Equality Now documents violence and discrimination against women and mobilises international action to support efforts to stop these abuses.

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