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Saudi interrogators torture, sexually abuse jailed women's rights activists: Report

Jailed Saudi human rights activists (L-R): Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef (Photo via Twitter)

A new damning report has revealed that imprisoned Saudi women’s rights activists are tortured and sexually abused by their interrogators at detention centers in the kingdom.

Scottish barrister Baroness Helena Kennedy said in a 40-page report that the female detainees are made to watch pornography, threatened with rape, hung from the ceiling, beaten and suffered electric shocks during interrogation.

The human rights lawyer highlighted in the report, entitled A Stain on World Leaders and the G20 Summit in Saudi Arabia, that many of the activists had been “subjected to treatment amounting to torture, including by individuals who are closely connected to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, such as his advisor Saud al-Qahtani and younger brother Khalid bin Salman.”

The barrister cited one source which reported that Aida al-Ghamdi had been forced to watch pornography; and several other sources which reported that Loujain al-Hathloul and Eman al-Nafjan had been forced to kiss and perform sexual acts on interrogators.

The report noted that Hathloul’s interrogation had been overseen by Qahtani, who has been implicated in the murder of US-based dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. Saudi authorities have acquitted him though.

Qahtani, in echoes of Khashoggi’s dismemberment, is said to have told one of the women, “I'll do whatever I like to you, and then I'll dissolve you and flush you down the toilet.”

Another woman activist claimed her interrogation sessions were overseen by the de facto Saudi ruler's younger brother, who would boast about his position of power, saying, “Do you know who I am? I am Prince Khalid bin Salman, I am the ambassador to the US, and I can do anything I like to you.”

The prisoners were often transferred between Dhahban Central Prison near the Red Sea port city of Jeddah and an “unofficial detention facility,” according to the report. 

Kennedy called on the United Kingdom and other nations to boycott this weekend's G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia unless the women are set free.

In recent years, Saudi authorities have rounded up hundreds of perceived political opponents, detained more than a dozen women’s rights activists, and continued mass prisoner executions.

Public protests, political parties and labor unions are banned in the traditionally closed-off country, where the media are tightly controlled and criticism of the royal family can lead to prison.

The crackdown gathered pace in September 2017 with the arrests of prominent religious leaders, some of whom could now face death penalty.

Top businessmen and senior officials were arrested two months later in a purported anti-corruption campaign. The measure was criticized as a power play and shakedown of Mohammed bin Salman’s potential political rivals.

Bin Salman also stands accused of being directly involved in the cruel murder of Khashoggi, after he entered the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork for a planned marriage with his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz.

Turkish officials say his body was dismembered by Saudi killers and his remains are yet to be found.

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