A Saudi women’s rights activist was detained by authorities at an airport in the kingdom’s Dammam, rights group Amnesty International said on Monday.
Loujain al-Hathloul was arrested for a second time on Sunday for her work in challenging Saudi’s strict laws on women, Amnesty said.
“It appears she is being targeted once again because of her peaceful work as a human rights defender speaking out for women’s rights, which are consistently trammelled in the kingdom,” said Amnesty’s Samah Hadid.
“If so she must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Hadid, who described Monday’s news as “absurd and unjustifiable”.
In 2014, Hathloul was held for breaking an absolute ban in the Gulf kingdom on women driving – the only country in the world where women are not allowed to do so.
The women’s rights activist tried to drive into the kingdom from the neighboring United Arab Emirates in defiance of the ban and was held for more than two months.
At the time, campaigners for Hathloul’s release did not provide full details of the allegations against her but said investigations appeared to focus on social media use rather than driving.
Saudi citizens are highly active on social media including on Twitter, where many post anonymously under fabricated user names.
However, Hathloul’s account, which has 284,000 followers, is run under her real identity.
Hathloul tried to stand for public office in November 2015, in the kingdom’s first election in which women were allowed to vote and stand for office but the activist said she was disqualified by the authorities.
“I’ve been eliminated as a candidate for the municipal elections,” Loujain Hathloul said in a tweet at the time.
Amnesty has said Hathloul was later recognized as a candidate, but her name was never added to the ballot.
She had said she wanted to run “to increase the percentage of women’s participation”.
Another driving activist, Tamadour al-Yami, told AFP her name was also dropped from the final list of authorized candidates. She vowed to appeal, “but I don’t think it will change anything.”
And Nassima al-Sadah, a human rights activist and would-be candidate in the Gulf coast city of Qatif, said officials informed her late Saturday that her name had been removed.
“I don’t know why,” said Sadah, who was trained in electioneering by the National Democratic Institute, a Washington non-profit organization.
Saudi Arabia, a Salafist-Islamic absolute monarchy, has no female cabinet ministers and is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.
They have to cover themselves in black from head-to-toe in public, and require permission from a man in their families to travel, work or marry.
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