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Thursday, August 4, 2011     GET REAL

Amnesty International charges Saudis using
anti-terror law to crush dissent

LONDON — Saudi Arabia is said to have drafted counter-insurgency legislation meant to crack down on the pro-democracy opposition.


The London-based Amnesty International asserted that Riyad planned to crack down on dissent in the Gulf Cooperation Council kingdom under the guise of CI measures. Amnesty cited a draft law that would sentence to at least 10 years anybody who questions the integrity of the king or crown prince.

"This draft law poses a serious threat to freedom of expression in the kingdom in the name of preventing terrorism," Amnesty said on July 22. "If passed it would pave the way for even the smallest acts of peaceful dissent to be branded terrorism."

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Under the legislation, Saudi Arabia would deem "endangering national unity" as "terrorist crimes." This would allow Saudi authorities to extend detentions without charge or trial.

The draft law would also allow authorities to hold dissidents incommunicado for an indefinite period upon approval by a special court. The legislation would grant these options to Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, regarded as the de facto leader of the kingdom.

On July 23, the Saudi embassy in London acknowledged a discussion on a draft CI bill. The embassy said Amnesty's accusations regarding the bill were baseless and that the legislation was meant to battle the Al Qaida threat.

"The continued growth of Al Qaida presents us with a serious challenge, and policies that prevent this group from establishing an affiliated network in the kingdom are necessary," the Saudi embassy said.

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