x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Rare Saudi protest over relatives held without trial

Dozens of Saudis staged a rare protest yesterday against the detention of relatives being held without trial for security offences.

RIYADH // Dozens of Saudis staged a rare protest yesterday against the detention of relatives being held without trial for security offences.

Up to 50 people, including eight women, stood quietly by the side of a Riyadh road outside a prosecutor's office, watched by uniformed policemen sitting in three police cars.

Saudi Arabia said it had no political prisoners. Last year, it said it had put on trial 5,080 of nearly 5,700 people it had detained on security charges since a series of attacks against foreign and government targets in 2003.

Yesterday's protesters included adolescents and elderly people. They stood in a tight group without waving placards or shouting slogans. One woman, holding a walking stick, sat on a chair.

"My brother told me he was taken to court last year but it was a secret trial and they didn't let him choose his own lawyer," said one protester, who did not want to be identified for fear of arrest. "It's been over a year and we still don't have the result of the trial. In my opinion, this trial is nothing but a show."

He said his brother had been arrested 11 years ago after returning from Afghanistan where he had gone to fight and that he had complained of being beaten while in detention.

A spokesman for the Saudi interior ministry was not immediately available to comment but the government has repeatedly denied using torture.

In December, after an Amnesty International report had criticised the Saudi authorities for justifying cracking down on dissent by citing security concerns, the Saudi Embassy in London responded by saying it was based on inaccurate information.