Saudi frees female political prisoners but two remain in custody
Women are banned from public gatherings in Saudi Arabia (Photo used for illustrative purposes)
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Saudi authorities have freed all but two of a group of women arrested earlier this month, police said on Monday.
The women were arrested during a protest in the city of Buraidah to demand the release of their relatives who have been in jail for years without charge.
"All women arrested have been freed, with the exception of two of them who refused to leave even after all procedures for their release were completed," a police spokesman in the northern Qassim province said in a statement carried by the SPA news agency.
Authorities have accused the protesters of acting on behalf of "deviant groups" – a term they usually use to refer to al-Qaeda groups.
Small groups of women have gathered almost daily in Buraida, north of Riyadh, to demand the release of their relatives from prison, and to defy the Saudi ban on public gatherings.
Demonstrations are banned in Saudi Arabia, an ultra-conservative kingdom that has remained relatively untouched by the recent wave of anti-government Arab uprisings with the exception of some areas.
The monarchy has seen regular protests since February 2011, mainly in the eastern town of Awamiyah and in the Qatif region where forces have killed a number of anti-regime demonstrators including five in November 2011.
Amnesty International has condemned Saudi Arabia’s use of “excessive force” against demonstrators.
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