Saudi Arab

Saudis rally for prisoners release

saudi_prisonersDozens have people have gathered outside Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, demanding the release of prisoners held without a trial.Despite an official ban on demonstrations in the kingdom, the protesters, mainly women, gathered in central Riyadh on Saturday and asked to meet with the ministry officials to call for the release of their relatives, Shiite News  reported.

“God, free our prisoners,” read one poster held up by a woman.

Saudi police were also deployed in force and barred access to the Interior Ministry.

Amnesty International and other human rights activists have accused Riyadh of having detained thousands of reform activists in its campaign against al-Qaeda staged inside the kingdom from 2003-06.

Saudi Arabia, however, denies the accusations.

In its latest annual report, Human Rights Watch charged last month that “each year, thousands of people receive unfair trials or are subject to arbitrary detention” in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, a group of Saudi web activists launched an online campaign, calling for political reform in the kingdom.

The campaign calls for a constitutional monarchy, an end to corruption, an even distribution of wealth, and a serious solution to unemployment, among other demands.

“Before it is too late, I call the government, and the king, to reform the country and heed our requests…if they wish to continue ruling this country,” one group member, Safaa Jaber, posted on the group’s website on Friday.

“I call on our people to take on the responsibility of demanding their legitimate rights for complete reform of our country before the situation evolves into something undesirable,” she said.

The online campaign is launched amid a wave of uprising against authoritarian regimes across the Arab world.

In December, the self-immolation of a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor, unleashed a wave of street riots across the North African country that ended in the dramatic ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

Inspired by Tunisia, Egyptians have been demonstrating for 13 consecutive days against President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule.

Jordan, Yemen and Algeria have also been directly inspired by the wave of uprisings in the Arab world.

Demonstrators gathered in the streets of Yemen for a “day of rage” and Algeria became the latest African country to try to defuse tensions by lifting its 19-year state of emergency.

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