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SAUDI ARABIA: Amnesty International says anti-terror push has led to severe abuse

July 22, 2009 |  6:17 am

Saudi special forces guard Amnesty International has charged that Saudi Arabia “has launched a sustained assault on human rights under the facade of countering terrorism.”

In a new report, the human-rights group claims the kingdom’s campaign to crush Al Qaeda and other terrorist elements has led to severe abuses in civil liberties. Statistics released by the Saudi Ministry of Justice show that 330 suspects have been tried for terror-related offenses, receiving penalties ranging from fines to death.

 Amnesty states that Saudi authorities are holding 3,100 people in detention and that “neither the names of those tried nor the details of the charges against them were disclosed, maintaining the extreme secrecy of the trial process.”

When asked about the Amnesty report, a Saudi Interior Ministry official, Abdulrahman Alhadlaq, told the Associated Press: "These are claims that have to be proven."

"Our policies on human rights are very clear and the orders given are for prisoners to be treated with respect and according to international human-rights principles," Alhadlaq said. "If anything happened, it would be an individual case, and if it is brought to anybody's attention it will be dealt with."

The kingdom, which began a program to re-educate selected militants, has been concerned over the last year about Al Qaeda cells operating within its borders and in neighboring Yemen. The country's ultra-conservative brand of Wahabi Islam continues to be a font for extremists. The Amnesty report claims Saudi Arabia’s increased vigilance has led to beatings, sleep deprivation and electric shock.

“These unjust anti-terrorism measures have made an already dire human-rights situation worse,” said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program, in a press release. "The Saudi Arabian government has used its powerful international clout to get away with it. And the international community has failed to hold the government to account for these gross violations.”

-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

Photo: A Saudi special forces guard. Credit: Associated Press

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