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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Women’s-rights activists in Saudi Arabia appeared in a closed court hearing Wednesday on unknown charges after being detained in a crackdown last year, making their first appearance before a judge in a case that has sparked an outcry.

The arrests came just before Saudi Arabia began allowing women to drive, something women’s-rights activists had been demanding for years.

Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, and Saudi state media did not immediately report on the hearing. Authorities barred Western diplomats and journalists from the hearing in Riyadh, a person with knowledge of the hearing said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

It wasn’t clear if those taken to court appeared in separate or joint hearings.

Amnesty International said those taken to court included Aziza al-Yousef, Loujain al-Hathloul and Eman al-Nafjan, who are seen as icons of the women’s-rights movement in Saudi Arabia. The government previously has accused them of national security crimes, including working with “foreign entities” to harm the interests of the kingdom. Months before Wednesday’s hearing, state-backed papers ran blood-red headlines declaring them “traitors.”

Print Headline: Women’s activists go to Saudi court

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