International rights groups and governments have been calling for the activists to be released [File: Benoit Tessier/Reuters]

Saudi Arabia has temporarily released three of the women’s rights activists held in custody for almost a year, state media has said, following a court hearing in which the detainees alleged torture and sexual harassment during interrogation.

The announcement by the SPA news agency on Thursday did not identify the three women but several reports named them as blogger Eman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Youssef, a retired lecturer at King Saud University, and academic Rokaya al-Mohareb.

They were freed following the second hearing on Wednesday of their high-profile trial that foreign reporters and diplomats were barred from attending. The women face charges that rights organisations say relate to contact with international media and human

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