Two Saudi women detained for nearly a month in defiance of a ban on females driving have been referred to a court established to try terrorism cases, sources have claimed. The cases of Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysa al-Amoudi, were sent to the anti-terrorism court in connection with opinions they expressed in tweets and in social media, four people close to the two women said. Both women have spoken out online against the female driving ban. Activists say they fear that the case is intended to send a warning to others pushing for greater rights. The Specialised Criminal Court, to which their cases were referred, was established in the capital, Riyadh, to try terrorism cases but has also tried and handed long prison sentences to a number of human rights workers, peaceful dissidents, activists and critics of the government. For example, this year it sentenced a revered Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a vocal critic of the government, to death for sedition and sentenced a prominent human rights lawyer, Waleed Abul-Khair, to 15 years in prison on charges of inciting public opinion. Human Rights Watch recently warned that “Saudi authorities are ramping up their crackdown on people who peacefully criticise the government on the internet”. It said that judges and prosecutors are using “vague provisions of a 2007 anti-cybercrime law to charge and try Saudi citizens for peaceful tweets and social media comments”. This was the first time women drivers have been referred to the court, activists said. The detention of al-Hathloul, 25, and Maysa al-Amoudi, 33 – both arrested on December 1 – has been the longest yet for any women who defied the driving ban. They were vocal supporters of a grassroots campaign launched last year to oppose the ban and have a significant online following with a total 355,000 followers on Twitter for the two of them at the time of their arrest. Though no formal law bans women from driving in Saudi Arabia, ultraconservative Saudi clerics have issued religious edicts forbidding women from taking the wheel, and authorities do not issue them driver’s licenses. No such ban exists anywhere else in the world, even in other conservative Gulf countries. Al-Hathloul was stopped by border guards and her passport was confiscated for more than 24 hours when she attempted to cross the border on November 30 with a UAE driver’s license in an act of defiance. Al-Amoudi, a UAE-based Saudi journalist, was stopped when she went to deliver food and a blanket to al-Hathloul at the border, activists and relatives said. The women were formally arrested on December 1.