Saudi Arabia: Reformers and intellects arrested en masse over government worries
Saudi authorities have recently arrested a number of reformers who are being accused of inciting slogans that are, according to the Saudi government, against the national interests of the Kingdom. Sources told Al Bawaba that the reformers were arrested by the authorities to prevent them from forming a local human rights panel. Previous attempts to allow such a panel was rejected by the Saudi government.
The Saudi government had itself formed an official human rights panel to preempt any attempts for the formation of an independent one. The detained reformers were among 116 Saudi intellectuals that signed a petition last December demanding the government put a time-table for political reforms aimed at moving the country towards a constitutional monarchy.
According to the Saudi News Agency - a Washington-based website - among the detainees were Mohammed Saeed Al Tayeb, a lawyer and a professor of political-science at the King Fahd University, Matrouk Al Faleh, a professor at the King Saud University, Abdullah Al Hamed, former professor of modern literature at the Imam Mohammed Bin Saud University. The same sources also told Al Bawaba that several of the detainees were nabbed in front of their students [in classrooms], while many others are expected to be arrested in the next few days.
Ali Al Ahmed, head of the Saudi Research Institute, explained to Al Bawaba that many of these detainees were threatened in the past by the government in order to hint them to put an end to their constant demands for reform.
“Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Minister of Interior, had personally intervened and threatened to imprison anyone who would ask for reforms. These arrests came after continuous public requests for an independent human rights panel,” Ahmed added.
Reformers had previously sent a letter to Crown Prince Abdullah [Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud], asking for his assistance in forming the human tights panel, however all attempts were unsuccessful.
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)