Thursday, February 28, 2013
Saudi protesters in Hejaz demand end to illegal detention
Protesters in Saudi Arabia have held a rally in the western region of Hejaz to protests against an increase in illegal detentions. Demonstrators took to the streets of Hejaz on Thursday, carrying placards and shouting slogans demanding the release of political prisoners. The rally is the latest in a growing wave of protests over the detention of a group of women and children in the central province of al-Qassim. The group was arrested by regime forces while they were staging a sit-in outside al-Safra Prison in Buraidah on Monday, demanding that authorities release their relatives. Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in oil-rich Eastern Province. They were primarily calling for the release of political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination. The calls soon turned into demands for the downfall of the ruling Al Saud royal family, especially after security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in Eastern Province in November 2011. In October 2012, Amnesty International called on the Saudi authorities to "end their repeated moves to stifle people’s attempts to protest against the widespread use of arbitrary detention in the country,” and to respect the right of people to peaceful protests. Activists say there are over 40,000 political prisoners in jails across the kingdom. They say some of the people behind bars are being kept without charge or trial - some of them for up to 15 years.