Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Cameroon's Constitutional Court rejects last petition for re-run

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Music stars, French art and a dead cat's renaissance

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Khashoggi Affair: Evidence mounts against Saudi Crown Prince

Read more

#TECH 24

Next stop space: Japanese company constructing nanotube 'space lift'

Read more

#THE 51%

The Gender Divide: Record number of women running in U.S. midterms

Read more

REPORTERS

Reporters: Brexit, a sea of uncertainty for fishermen

Read more

YOU ARE HERE

Fishing in France's Grau du Roi harbour, a family tradition

Read more

FOCUS

French education reforms under tight scrutiny

Read more

ENCORE!

FIAC 2018: Paris's one-stop shop for Contemporary Art collectors

Read more

Saudi Arabia frees fourth activist after crackdown: campaigners

© AFP/File | At least 11 activists were arrested last week in Saudi Arabia, mostly identified by rights groups as veteran women campaigners for the right to drive

DUBAI (AFP) - 

Saudi authorities have released a fourth women's rights advocate following her detention in a sweeping crackdown against activists, a month before the kingdom lifts its ban on women drivers, campaigners said Friday.

Walaa al-Shubbar, said to be in her 20s, was among at least 11 activists arrested last week, mostly identified by rights groups as veteran women campaigners for the right to drive and to end the conservative Islamic country's male guardianship system.

News of her freedom comes after campaigners including Amnesty International confirmed the release of Aisha al-Mana, Hessa al-Sheikh and Madeha al-Ajroush, elderly activists well-known for being part of a group that launched the first Saudi protest movement in 1990 for the right to drive.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials and campaigners said the terms of their release are not known.

"We call on Saudi authorities to release all other human rights defenders unconditionally and immediately," said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East director of campaigns.

"This wave of repression in Saudi Arabia must end. These arrests are completely unjustified."

Without naming those detained, authorities last week accused the detainees of "suspicious contact with foreign parties", providing financial support to hostile nations and attempting to undermine the kingdom's "security and stability".

The names of the four released activists did not appear in reports of state-backed media that branded the detainees traitors and "agents of embassies".

The detainees include three generations of activists, among them 28-year-old Loujain al-Hathloul, also held in 2014 for more than 70 days for attempting to drive from neighbouring United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia, and Aziza al-Yousef, a retired professor at Riyadh's King Saud University.

Their fate remains unclear.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights voiced concern that Hathloul, one of the most outspoken activists, was being held incommunicado, while other campaigners said the detainees had no access to lawyers and their whereabouts were unknown.

The crackdown has sparked a torrent of global criticism, casting a shadow on the kingdom's much-publicised liberalisation push launched by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who recently undertook a global tour aimed at reshaping his kingdom's austere image.

The self-styled reformer has sought to break with long-held restrictions on women and the mixing of the genders, with the decades-old driving ban on women slated to end June 24.

"It seems Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman -- who presents himself as a 'reformer', having pledged to increase women?s employment and overseeing the royal decree allowing women to drive -- sees no irony in taking credit for the symbolic change, while targeting the women responsible for pushing for it," Amnesty said earlier this week.

© 2018 AFP