» 06/08/2004 SAUDI ARABIA ITALY USA Free detained Christian and reformist Muslims
Rome(AsiaNews/FH) A campaign for the liberation of Brian Savio O'Connor has recently begun. O'Connor, who was arrested 6 months ago by the Saudi religious police (Muttawa), is now being held in the Olaya prison in Riyadh. The Muttawa have accused O'Connor of drug and alcohol peddling and of preaching Christianity. The prisoner's family declared that the drug charges are mere fabrications.
An Italian web-site, Stranocristiano, has appealed to the Saudi authorities for the liberation of O'Connor. This e-campaign is grounded on the letter that the Indian activist John Dayal recently wrote to king Fahad. "We join John Dayal in requesting the liberation of Brian O'Connor. Religious freedom is a universal right. A country that does not grant such right is not a civilised country".
Christians are not the only ones to be persecuted in Saudi Arabia. The Washington-based Saudi Institute gave the news of the arrest on March 15 of 11 Saudi citizens. All of them are Muslims who were active as voices for tolerance and human rights. Among the prisoners there are Abdulla Al-Hamad, a professor at Imam Mohamed bin Al-Saud University, Mohammed Said Al-Taib, a human rights activist, and Najeeb Al-Khanizee, a writer and political activist. Another human rights activist, Abdul-Rahman Alahim, was arrested on March 17 after appearing the day before on Al-Jazeera satellite television, calling upon the government to release all political detainees. Some of the prisoners were released three days ago, but seven others remain in the General Intelligence prison in Riyadh.
According to information received from the Saudi Institute, these activists were reportedly arrested for criticizing the lack of independence of the Saudi National Commission on Human Rights. They have also been accused of actively participating over the last two years in peaceful activities calling upon the government to take steps towards political reform, democracy, and respect for human rights. The Saudi Interior Ministry has agreed to release the detainees only on the condition that they sign a pledge to cease their campaign to reform the political and human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.