Activist Detained After Questioning Saudi-Israel Ties

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    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - A Saudi activist, who questioned the normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, has been detained in her home country, and could face up to five years in prison, a UK-based rights group said.

    Noha al-Balawi has reportedly been under detention in the northwestern region of Tabuk for more than two weeks, ALQST, a group advocating for human rights in Saudi Arabia, said on Thursday.

    According to ALQST, al-Balawi was asked to report to a police station in Tabuk on January 23, only to be arrested, and has been detained ever since.

    Authorities reportedly questioned al-Balawi about her social media activities, including posts questioning the normalization of ties between her country and Israel, the rights group said.

    In one video clip widely circulated on social media, Balawi declared, "Normalization means accepting the occupation", in reference to Israel's continued control of Palestinian land.

    "Let me make it clear; we will never recognize Israel no matter what it will cost us.

    "There is not a single benefit for Arabs when we normalize relations with Israel. It only serves the best interests of the Zionist state," she added.

    In recent months, relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel have warmed up, with a flurry of diplomatic activities between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

    ALQST said that al-Balawi was also questioned for calling on the state to allow women to drive. In September 2017, the government of Saudi Arabia had already announced that it would allow women to drive starting in June 2018.

    According to the report, the investigating officer had referred al-Balawi's case for trial under the country's cybercrime law.

    Article 6 of the law states that a person "who creates or transmits anything prejudicial to public order" could face up to five years in jail, and/or a fine of up to $800,000.