A FRIEND of the Duchess of Sussex who was jailed in Saudi Arabia after campaigning for women’s rights has been treated so harshly that it amounts to torture, MPs warned yesterday.
Loujain al-Hathloul, once photographed with Meghan for Vanity Fair, is part of a group of activists being kept in solitary confinement without access to proper medical care, the detention review panel said. They called for an international torture investigation to be launched — lending weight to claims from the 29-year-old’s family about her treatment.
Ms al-Hathloul’s brother Walid says she has been electrocuted and whipped in a basement since her arrest in May.
He says at least one torture session was overseen by Saud al-Qahtani — sacked by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after claims he ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October. Tory Crispin Blunt, who chairs the cross-party panel of MPs and senior lawyers, said: ‘The Saudi women activist detainees have been treated so badly as to sustain an international investigation for torture.
‘Denied proper access to medical care, legal advice or visits from their families, their solitary confinement and mistreatment are severe enough to meet the international definition of torture.’ He added: ‘The supervisory chain of command up to the highest levels of Saudi authority would be responsible for this.’
Ms al-Hathloul (pictured) is married to the nation’s first professional stand-up comedian Fahad Albutairi — himself under arrest on unspecified charges.
She spearheaded the campaign to remove the ban on women driving in Saudi, and joined Meghan, former Irish president Mary Robinson and Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto at a 2016 rights summit in Ottawa, Canada.
She had been arrested several times for defying the ban and had led calls for the scrapping of the guardianship system that stops women marrying or travelling abroad without consent of a male relative.
The University of British Columbia graduate, one of eight women jailed, was detained shortly before the first female drivers got their licences.
Critics say the regime is trying to appear liberal while crushing dissent.
Ms al-Hathloul’s brother said when his parents were allowed a visit her hands shook as she recalled the torture. Mr Blunt urged the Saudis to halt the spiral to ‘catastrophe that the detention of these activists represents’.