Saudis stop demonstrations
for 2nd time, arrest scores

Monday, October 27, 2003

ABU DHABI For the second time in a week, Saudi security forces confronted reformists in unauthorized demonstrations throughout the kingdom.

The London-based Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia organized the demonstrations in Dhammam, Hael and Jedda for Thursday. But Saudi security forces were prepared and quelled the demonstrations.

"Anyone who takes part in them will be subjected to deterrent punishment meted out by the court," Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz said on the eve of Thursday's protests.

Witnesses and Arab news reports said scores of people were arrested, Middle East Newsline reported. The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite channel quoted a Saudi security official as saying that 30 people were arrested in Jedda, 31 in Dhammam and 13 in Hael.

Other reports placed the number of detained at more than 100. The Saudi opposition had called on the protests to begin from major downtown mosques.

Saudi opposition sources said other protests were attempted in Ahsa, Baha, Jawf and Tabuk. No arrests were reported in those cities.

The protests in the kingdom were the second in a week. Last week, authorities arrested more than 270 people in Riyad in the first protest by reformists.

On Thursday, Saudi security forces sought to prevent reformist protesters from bringing people to the demonstrations. Police blocked key roads in Jedda, Riyad and other cities and checked passing cars.

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[In Manama, young Shi'ites, many of them wearing masks, rioted for the second straight night on early Friday to protest the appearance of a controversial Lebanese singer. Bahraini anti-riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas grenades and arrested scores of teenagers in street violence that some officials said has not been seen in years in the kingdom.]

In Jedda, reformers brought 100 people in a demonstration in the city's downtown district. Witnesses said about half of the demonstrators were arrested.

In Riyad, Saudi forces deployed water cannons and other anti-riot gear to disperse demonstrators. Witnesses said plainclothes police monitored those coming to the demonstration in Jedda.

Saudi sources said the latest protests were scheduled a week ago and notification was relayed through e-mail and websites. The Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia also announced the protests on its website and radio.

In Washington, a senior U.S. official praised Saudi cooperation in the war against Al Qaida and appeared to defend the Saudi crackdown on protests.

The senior State Department official told a briefing on Thursday that the alternative to the royal family is a Taliban-inspired regime. .

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