By Raya Jalabi and Marwa Rashad
DUBAI (Reuters) – A Saudi court on Monday sentenced prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to five years and eight months in prison, her family and media said, after her conviction in a trial that has drawn international condemnation.
Hathloul, 31, has been held since 2018 following her arrest along with at least a dozen other women’s rights activists.
The verdict poses an early challenge to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s relationship with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who has criticised Riyadh’s human rights record.
Hathloul was charged with seeking to change the Saudi political system and harming national security, Sabq and al-Shark al-Awsat newspapers said.
The court suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence – or most of the time already served since her arrest on May 15, 2018 – with a conditional release to follow, the newspapers and Hathloul’s sister said.
She could therefore be released around end of February 2021, with a return to prison possible if she commits any crime, the newspapers said.
Hathloul was also given a five-year travel ban, her sister Lina tweeted, adding that both the public prosecutor and Hathloul could appeal.
United Nations human rights experts have called the charges “spurious” and along with leading rights groups and lawmakers in the United States and Europe have called for her release.
The U.N. human rights office wrote on Twitter that Hathloul’s conviction was “deeply troubling” and called for her early release “as matter of urgency”.
Rights groups and her family say Hathloul, who had championed women’s right to drive and for ending the kingdom’s male guardian system, was subjected to abuse, including electric shocks, waterboarding, flogging and sexual assault. Saudi authorities have denied the charges.
The criminal court last week cleared the prosecution of torturing Hathloul in detention, saying there was no evidence to support the allegations.
Hathloul’s conviction and sentencing came nearly three weeks after a Riyadh court jailed U.S.-Saudi physician Walid al-Fitaihi for six years, despite U.S. pressure to release him, in a case rights groups have called politically motivated.
Foreign diplomats said the two trials aimed to send a message at home and abroad that Saudi Arabia would not yield to pressure on human rights issues.
Riyadh could also use the sentences as leverage in future negotiations with the Biden administration, one diplomat said.
Biden has said he will take a firmer line with the kingdom, an oil titan and a major buyer of American arms, than President Donald Trump, who was a strong supporter of Prince Mohammed.
Hathloul rose to prominence in 2013 when she began publicly campaigning for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi officials have said the arrests of women activists were made on suspicion of harming Saudi interests and offering support to hostile elements abroad. Some of the women detainees have been released while their trials continued.
Activist Nassimah al-Saadah was sentenced to five years in prison with two suspended in late November, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Hathloul’s family made her charge sheet public after her case was transferred to Riyadh’s Specialised Criminal Court, originally established to try terrorism suspects but which has been used over the past decade to prosecute perceived dissidents.
The main charges against Hathloul, which carried up to a 20-year sentence, included: seeking to change the Saudi political system, calling for an end to male guardianship, attempting to apply for a U.N. job, attending digital privacy training, communicating with international rights groups and other Saudi activists.
Hathloul was also charged with speaking to foreign diplomats and with international media about women’s rights in the kingdom, including Reuters, which declined to comment.
“The case against Loujain, based solely on her human rights activism, is a travesty of justice and reveals the depths to which they will go to root out independent voices,” said Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch.
The Saudi government media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
(Reporting by Raya Jalabi and Aziz El Yaakoubi in Dubai and Marwa Rashad in London; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Gareth Jones, Angus MacSwan and Nick Macfie)
Social Media Buzz: Larry King Dies, Dr. Birx, Heathrow Crowds – BNN
(Bloomberg) — What’s buzzing on social media this morning:
Larry King, the interviewer whose schmoozy style attracted celebrities, politicians and other newsmakers as guests and made him the star of a top-rated U.S. cable talk show, has died. He was 87.
- King died Saturday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The cause of death wasn’t provided. The cancer and stroke survivor had spent time recently undergoing treatment for Covid-19.
Pfizer Inc. is trending on Twitter. Senior doctors in the U.K. are urging the gap between first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine doses be halved to ensure efficacy. The U.K. extended the maximum wait from three to 12 weeks to get more people to take the first shot. France may also delay second doses to stretch supplies.
- Large crowds at Heathrow Airport on Friday sparked concerns of virus spread. U.K. only allows residents to travel internationally for “legally-permitted reasons.”
Dr. Deborah Birx said she “always” considered quitting Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force as she worried she’d been viewed as a political person. “I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that, um, every day?” Birx told CBS in an interview that will air Sunday, according to an advance clip. Her term ended as Biden took office.
Protests broke out in cities across Russia as tens of thousands demanded the release of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Police detained hundreds of people.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Blockbuster Laine-Dubois deal draws mixed reviews on social media – Sportsnet.ca
Sometimes, change happens fast.
Mere days after Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella benched Pierre-Luc Dubois, one of his team’s best players, in an overtime loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dubois was packing his bags to go play in another country altogether.
The Blue Jackets traded the 22-year-old, who had requested to be dealt shortly after signing a two-year, $10-million bridge contract in the off-season, to the Winnipeg Jets for superstar winger Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic in a move that sent shockwaves through the NHL.
Not all blockbusters are universally well-received, of course. And while some on Twitter celebrated the move as a shuffling of high-profile talent, others were quick to wonder how the dynamic between Laine, an offensive-minded forward, and Tortorella will play out.
Here is some of the best reaction to the winter blockbuster:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 23, 2021
Oh yeah, this Tortorella/Laine relationship isn’t gonna have any issues..none at all.
— Scott MacArthur (@ScottyMacThinks) January 23, 2021
Now that it’s been announced, some personal thoughts:
– Laine’s talent is more rare than PLD
– The connection with PLD dad played a role
– not sure Roslovic needed to be added in
– Laine & Torts
— Rachel Doerrie (@racheldoerrie) January 23, 2021
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 23, 2021
Social media's sea shanty trend scores well with musician-curator – CBC.ca
Southern Ontario folk musician Ian Bell says it makes sense that sea shanties are taking off on social media right now because they are participatory and easy to learn.
“It’s easier to learn Heave ‘Er Up and Bust ‘Er than it is to try and figure out all the bits for, say Bohemian Rhapsody or something,” Bell, who is also the former curator of the Port Dover Habour Museum, told CBC.
“I think for a lot of people, singing shanties at this moment is like the musical equivalent of learning to bake your own bread.”
The social media platform Tik Tok is awash in videos of people performing the traditional work songs or altering others’ videos of them, and even talk show hosts such as Stephen Colbert have gotten in on the action.
The songs are appealing because of their communal nature, Bell said.
“There is nothing better than being in a large gang of people who are singing their faces off often in three or four part harmonies, and it’s one of those situations where it kind of goes beyond musical. You know the vibrations can go right through you,” he said.
One of the best shanty sings used to take place at the Mill Race Festival in Cambridge, he said, where 60 or 70 singers would pack into the Kiwi Pub and belt out the numbers.
Songs to make work easier
Shanties aren’t so much songs as they are templates of songs, Bell said.
The rhythm helped workers carry out tasks in unison such as pulling in sails on sailboats.
“Some of the jobs needed a bunch of short pulls, and some of the jobs needed longer pulls, and so there was a whole repertoire of songs that fitted those needs and that the sailors sang to make the work go a little more easily,” he said.
But the lyrics were fluid.
Each work crew might have a shantyman — possibly the person with the loudest voice — who might recall some of the original words to the number, but there was a lot of improvisation, Bell explained.
“If the job wasn’t over and he’d finished the song, ‘Well, we’ll add a verse about the cook,'” he added.
Great Lakes shanties name local spots
A number of sea shanties were written on or about the Great Lakes and they are particular to the types of ships on the lakes, he said. Specifically, they were schooners rather than clipper ships.
There were lots of capstan shanties, or songs sung while rotating the capstan to pull in an anchor, he said. Some also specifically mention the lakes or the surrounding areas.
“They mention Buffalo and they mention Long Point and they mention Windsor and Sarnia,” Bell said.
For those wanting to learn a shanty or two and get in on the social media activity, Bell recommended Bully in the Alley and It’s Me for the Inland Lakes.
“I love the way it’s happening on Tik Tok,” Bell said, “which I haven’t tried, because, let’s be frank; I’m an old guy.”
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