SAUDI Arabia has detained women’s rights activists for working with “foreign entities” just weeks before is lifts its ban on women driving.

The kingdom’s state security said it had detained seven people and rights activists say all of them had worked in some capacity on women’s rights issues, with five among the most prominent and outspoken women’s rights campaigners in the country.

Pro-government media outlets have splashed their photos online and in newspapers, accusing them of betrayal and of being traitors.

The interior ministry said the group were communicating with “foreign entities,” working to recruit people in sensitive government positions and providing money to foreign circles with the aim of destabilising the kingdom.

Some state-linked media outlets published the names of those detained, which include Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Najfan.

Rights activists who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, say Madeha al-Ajroush and Aisha al-Manae are also among those detained.

Both took part in the first women’s protest movement for the right to drive in 1990, when 50 women were arrested for driving, losing their passports and their jobs.

The recent arrests come just six weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to overturn the world’s only ban on women driving next month.