Saudi authorities arrested Nassima al-Sada in late July or early August 2018, with the Saudi-focused human rights organization Al-Qst, in a report dated August 1, 2018, saying she was arrested in the preceding days and the Guardian reporting her arrest on August 2 without specifying the date. CPJ was unable to determine the exact date of her arrest.
Al-Sada's arrest came as part of an ongoing crackdown beginning in May 2018 on activists and bloggers associated with the campaign against the ban on women driving, which Saudi authorities lifted June 24, 2018. In November 2018, Human Rights Watch and The Washington Post both reported that Saudi authorities tortured at least three of the women detained in the wave of arrests with electric shocks and floggings, and that at least one of the women tried to commit suicide in detention. According to The Wall Street Journal, at least one of the women in Saudi custody was sexually assaulted.
Al-Sada wrote a column for the Saudi online newspaper Juhaina, where she focused on topics such as Saudi nationality laws, women's political participation in the kingdom, and an analysis of the U.N. campaign to end violence against women, according to a CPJ review of her column.
According to Amnesty and Al-Qst, al-Sada was well-known for her human rights activism, particularly against the ban on women driving in the kingdom. Al-Qst reported that al-Sada had also worked as a human rights instructor, while Amnesty reported that she stood in municipal elections in 2015 but was banned from participating. The Guardian reported that she was a cofounder of the Saudi human rights organization al-Adalah.
As of late 2018, CPJ could not determine where al-Sada was being held. The Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not respond to an email from CPJ seeking comment on her health status, where she was being detained, or any charges against her.