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Sunday, March 6, 2011
Saudi Arabia bans all demos after protests
By staff and agencies
RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's interior ministry said on Saturday that protests are illegal, amid various calls for demonstrations demanding change in the ultra-conservative kingdom, state media said.
According to Reuters, security forces would use all measures to prevent any attempt to disrupt public order, the interior ministry stated in a statement carried by state television.
The ban follows a series of protests by Saudi Shias in the kingdom's east in the past weeks mainly to demand the release of prisoners they say are long held without trial.
Deploying troops amid protests
A report in the British media on Saturday said, the Saudi government has decided to deploy thousands of anti-riot police to northeastern Saudi Arabia to intensify its crackdown on mass protests planned next week.
Worried about the mass uprisings against the House of Saud, “Saudi Arabia is drafting in up to 10,000 security forces to the northeastern Muslim Shia provinces,” the daily Telegraph reported.
The move came as appeals were made in Facebook for a “Day of Rage” on March 11 in the Kingdom's eastern sector to demand the release of political prisoners, including Sheikh Tawfiq al-Aamer, a prominent Shia cleric, who was arrested last Sunday.
Saudi security forces are on alert for countering any anti-government rally in the Arab country.
“King Abdullah is also reported to have told neighboring Bahrain that if they do not put down their own ongoing Shia revolt, his own forces will,” the British newspaper said.
Protests and public displays of dissent are forbidden in Saudi Arabia. The government has become increasingly nervous about the protests that have taken the Arab world by storm, toppling the Egyptian and Tunisian presidents, and recently reaching Oman, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya.
As police helicopters hovered over the anti-government demonstrators, they chanted; “Thieves, thieves, where is the 200 billion (riyals)?”, “God is great”, and “God will destroy the arrogant and unjust,” along with “peaceful, peaceful,” the Financial Times reported on Friday.
In another development, Saudi authorities arrested two active shia writers- Hussain Al-Alaq and Hussain Al-Yousef - following their participation in a protest rally demanding release of prisoners.
According to Ahlul Bayt News Agency, Sources informed that Al-Alaq was taken from his house at midnight to the police station in Tarot, while Al-Yousef was arrested during the demonstration.
It is noteworthy that nine prisoners «forgotten» were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the bombing of U.S. barracks in the city of Al-Khobar in 1996 that killed 19 Americans.
Prisoners have not been presented so far on trial as they did not have the opportunity to appoint lawyers to defend them.
Hundreds protest in Saudi Arabia
Several hundred Shias protested on Friday in the Eastern Province, calling for the release of an arrested Shia cleric, Sheikh Tawfiq al-Aamer, and other detainees, witnesses said.
The demonstration was staged after an appeal made on Facebook for a “Day of Rage” in the kingdom's east to demand the release Aamer, who was arrested on Sunday, AFP reported.
Hundreds of people protested for the release of Aamer and others after Friday prayers in the town of Al-Hufuf, witnesses said.
A similar protest was held in Al-Qatif, also in the Eastern Province, but was dispersed by police, witnesses said.
Saudi Arabia's Shia minority mostly live in the east, which holds much of the oil wealth of the world's top crude exporter and is near Bahrain, scene of protests by majority Shias against their western-backed rulers.
Saudi Shias complain they struggle to get senior government jobs and other benefits like other citizens.
The government of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament that usually does not tolerate public dissent, denies these charges.
Last week, King Abdullah returned to Riyadh after a three-month medical absence and unveiled $37 billion in benefits for citizens in an apparent bid to insulate the kingdom from protests spreading in several Arab countries.
Photo: The video-grabs are taken from online video website YouTube