Hathlol appeared in Saudi court on Wednesday, as his trial was set to begin after 900 days in pre-trial detention.
In a statement sent to CNN by her family and supporters, the court instead referred the case to a special criminal court for terrorism and national security cases.
“We are concerned about the continued detention of at least five women officers in Saudi Arabia. We regret that the cases of Lujain al-Hathlol and Samar Badawi have now been referred to a special criminal court for terrorism and national security cases.” Human rights ambassadors to the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Estonia, Luxembourg and Finland said in a statement.
Hathlol, 31, was jailed in May 2018 during a sweep that targeted leading opponents of the state’s former law banning women from driving. The move comes just weeks before the ban was lifted, casting doubt on the reform agenda presented by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The court in which she appeared on Wednesday said she would investigate allegations of torture at Hathlol’s prison, the family said in a statement. Saudi officials have repeatedly denied allegations of torture and sexual harassment in their prisons. A new trial date has not yet been announced.
“Peaceful activism and advocating for women’s rights is not a crime. Human rights defenders can be a strong partner for governments in addressing concerns within society,” the diplomats said.
“We are working with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Officers and treaty organizations to reiterate our call for the release of all political detainees, including women’s rights officials.”
CNN has reached out to the Saudi government for an answer.
In an interview with CNN’s Nick Robertson earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adele Jubair said Hathlol’s case was “up to the courts” and that it was “on trial for matters relating to national security.”
Amnesty International’s representative for the Middle East, Lynn Malouf, said the special criminal court was “used to persuade dissent and notoriety for a long prison sentence after a serious defective trial.”
The six-page chargesheet for Hathlol’s case, seen by CNN, includes a section entitled “Crimes Performed” and activism against the state’s restricted male guardianship law with contact with foreign journalists and diplomats.
U.S. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called for Hathlol’s immediate release on Saturday, and said on Twitter, “She was tortured for more than 2 years in detention.”
“Activism for women’s rights is not a crime. They are also plagued by allegations of abuse and a lack of access to transparency / trial,” the bureau’s press office wrote on Twitter.
A statement from Hathlol’s family and supporters said she went on a second hunger strike on October 26 in protest of her prison conditions and because she had been denied access to her relatives.
The statement said she was forced to end her strike two weeks later after officers woke her up several times during the night, leaving her feeling exhausted.
The statement said she “felt weak in court, that her body was shaking uncontrollably and her voice was dizzy and shaky.”
Her sister, Lina al-Hathlool, said she and her family had not received any improvement about Hathlol, as she began her hunger strike until Tuesday, the day before she appeared in court.
“And during this time the Saudi government, instead of responding to our repeated inquiries about Lujain’s health, has blocked our requests and denied us access to Lujain,” he said in a statement.
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