Saudi activists press release of reformers on YouTube

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 09, 2011 8:13 AM
Saudi activists press release of reformers on YouTube

RIYADH (Reuters) - A group of Saudi activists has launched a 10-minute YouTube video protesting against the imprisonment without charge of some Saudi intellectuals which has attracted over 9,000 hits in less than 24 hours.

The video, "Saudis Missing," was posted late on Friday and shows interviews with a lawyer and family members of some of the prisoners who had called for reform in the absolute monarchy. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R99d7SVgyQU)

Saudi Arabia does not tolerate any form of dissent. It has no elected parliament or political parties and political life is dominated by the ruling Al Saud family.

"I hope and call for their release without any conditions and for them to receive apologies for what is happening to them," lawyer Bassim Alim said on the video, calling the detained activists "prisoners of opinion."

"The way they were arrested, interrogated and imprisoned, is all in violation of the most basic regulations and this means that there is no basis for a trial or charges."

Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki told Reuters over the phone that there were no "prisoners of opinion" among those detained with security forces.

"The issue referred to (in the video) is being looked at by the judiciary and the defense lawyer is handling the case for those involved," he said without giving details.

The video shows family members of some reformers who were arrested in 2007 during a meeting in Jeddah and are still being held without trial.

Activists say that thousands are held in Saudi prisons without charge or access to lawyers despite a Saudi law that limits detention without trial to six months.

"This documentary is very painful," said Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb, president of the Human Rights First Society.

"We deplore and condemn the fact that these people are still behind bars and demand that the Saudi government release them unconditionally or subject them to a fair and transparent trial with full access to legal counsel."

Saudi authorities arrested a university professor a day after he called for the release of jailed relatives and other prisoners, the Human Rights First Society said late last month.

Dozens of Saudi men gathered outside the Interior Ministry in the capital Riyadh on March 20 to demand the release of jailed relatives.

The U.S. State Department complained on Friday of a long list of human rights abuses in ally and top oil producer Saudi Arabia, including arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detentions, denial of fair and public trials and lack of due process.

(Reporting by Riyadh Newsroom; Editing by Nick Macfie and Mike Nesbit)