03/17/2004, 00.00
Saudi Arabia
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Five human rights activists arrested

Riyad (AsiaNews) – Yesterday, March 16, authorities arrested 5 Saudi activists, accusing them of undermining "national unity and principles of the Islamic-based fabric of society". 

Last December the men, now under investigation, had signed a petition asking the governing to become a constitutional monarchy.   

The five men are: Abdallah al Hamed, Tawfik al Kassir, Matruk al Faleh, Mohamed Said Tayb and Khaled al Hamed –all noteworthy scholars and who have directed criticism at their government's recently formed human rights panel, a committee which in their opinion is merely " at the service of the Saudi interior minister." 

 The Arab Human Rights Commission in Paris has harshly criticized the arrest of the 5 academics, a group applauded as a "symbol of reform in Saudi Arabia", and asked for their immediate release.

Arab sources in Paris told AsiaNews that the activists had sent a letter to Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah Ben Abdel Aziz in which they requested permission to found a "people's human rights commission", operating independently from the official government committee. However, the prince did not respond to their letter.

Many Saudi intellectuals living in exile closely follow requests for greater individual freedom in their homeland, demands they consider to signal a new era for defense of human rights and freedom of expression, in particular.   (P.B)
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