Khaleej Times from Dubai carries this Reuters story. The piece notes that many believe that the government is using anti-terror measures to quash pro-democracy efforts. It also hints that ‘pro-democracy’ is not necessarily a move toward liberalization as religious factions—likely to win elections—are conservative. ‘Reform’ is not a one-way ratchet toward freedom; it can also be used to move things backwards.
Again, the lack of transparency is what confounds the issues. Human rights activists are not necessarily looking to move things backwards, after all. Lumping them with radicals might make it easier for the government to control them, but it does nothing to help anyone—Saudi or not—to understand what’s truly going on.
RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi intellectuals have called on the government to end arrests of and restrictions imposed on pro-reform and human rights activists in the conservative Islamic monarchy.
The appeal, made this week to the official Human Rights Commission, lists the detention since February 2007 of nine political activists, the arrest in May of well-known reformer Matruk al-Faleh and Interior Ministry bans on travel abroad that prevent blacklisted Saudis from leaving the country for years.
“The government provides you with the power …to monitor and ensure that governmental institutions abide by the law,” said a statement delivered to the commission and sent to Reuters on Wednesday in the name of 38 public figures, including some former detainees who are prevented from foreign travel.
The statement also referred to hundreds of “forgotten ones” who languish in Saudi jails without trial.
“Illegal arrests persist against Saudi citizens, especially against those who express their opinions in peaceful and civilised ways … the detainees are entitled to a fair trial, which Saudi law grants them,” it said.
There was no immediate comment by Saudi officials on the appeal.