On Thursday, two Saudi women who were arrested earlier this month for defying the country's driving ban were referred to a court that specializes in terrorism cases, not for the driving itself, but for speaking out against the driving ban on social media.
On December 1, activists Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysa al-Amoudi were arrested while trying to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. Both women are visible figures in the campaign opposing the driving ban—al-Hathloul took part in the stunt in October of 2013, when dozens of Saudi women got behind the wheel and defied the ban.
While there are no laws banning women from driving, Saudi clerics have forbidden it, and the country does not issue licenses to women. In light of this legal grey (but not really) area, al-Hathloul and al-Amoudi's case has been transferred to the Specialized Criminal Court, where they will be tried for expressing their disapproving opinions regarding the ban on social media. Via New York Times:
The Specialized Criminal Court, to which their cases were referred, was established in the capital, Riyadh, to try terrorism cases but has also tried and given long prison sentences to a number of human rights workers, peaceful dissidents, activists and critics of the government.
Human Rights Watch recently warned that the "Saudi authorities are ramping up their crackdown on people who peacefully criticize the government on the Internet." It said that judges and prosecutors are using "vague provisions of a 2007 anti-cybercrime law" to charge and try Saudi citizens for peaceful messages posted online.
The women's lawyers have appealed the decision to transfer the case. Possibly because it is absolutely ridiculous to associate equal rights with terrorism.
Image via AP.