11/13/2006, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Saudi reformers banned from travelling abroad

by Matrook Al-Faleh
The non-violent group gained public attention two years ago when it called on the Saudi government to implement constitutional reforms. After being imprisoned, isolated and "pardoned" by the king, its members are still prevented from speaking freely. The courageous statement published herein comes from one of them, Prof Matrook al-Faleh. According to the reformers, only respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia can defeat violence and terrorism in the country.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) – In a statement sent to human rights organisations and associations, Prof Matrook Alfaleh, from King Saud University in Riyadh, has denounced the fact that a group of Saudi reformers and their families have been banned from travelling abroad. They have also been told not to speak to local and international media. The group gained notoriety two years ago, when ten of its members were arrested for calling on Saudi Arabia to become a constitutional monarchy and calling for the creation of an independent human rights study group. Here is Mr Alfaleh's statement:

I'm pleased to write this statement in response to repeated inquiries and contacts from various human rights organizations as well as civil society [associations] in the Arab region [and] worldwide regarding the status of human rights of the "Saudi Reformers" and civil society activists, especially (Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid, Ali Al-Domini, Dr. Matrook Al-Faleh, Abdel-Rahman Al-Lahim, Mr. Mohammed Said Tayeb, Sheikh  Suleiman Al-Rishoodi, Najaib Khunaizi, and still three other persons), who [were] jailed on 16 March 2004 for peacefully calling for and demanding political constitutional reform in Saudi Arabia.

As you know, on March16, 2004, the above-mentioned "Saudi Reformers" were arrested. Within one to fourteen days, all but three of us (Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid, Ali Al-Domini, Dr. Matrook Al-Faleh) were released after signing a [. . . pledge] to stop any future reform demands and/or any contacts, whatsoever, with [. . . local and international] media. The three reformers (Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid, Ali Al-Domini, Dr. Matrook Al-Faleh) who refused to sign [. . .] were unjustly sentenced on May 15, 2005, to 7,9, and 6 years respectively in prison, and 40 days later, the verdict was upheld, again unjustly by the higher court.

Their crime, [. . .which is not punishable] in countries respecting human rights, is that they, in an absolutely internal initiative, (out of their own vision about reform from inside), along with hundreds of intellectuals, scholars, including well-known judges and clergy-men, journalists, lawyers, businessmen etc. of various currents, sects, and regions of the country, signed two reform's documents calling for civil life and demanding political reform to [order to] have and promote a modern viable state that can offer and ensure justice, equality, and participation; a state with modern mechanisms of good governance to fight corruption and the waste of public money [. . .], fight [. . . uneven] distribution of national income and [ensure the] development of benefits among the country' regions, fight violence and radicalism on the rise, etc.; all of which necessitates establishing a responsible government accountable before a freely elected body representing the people, and [. . .] an independent judiciary, along with having and guaranteeing a law and code of human rights, including the right to freely express views and the right to form and participate in active and independent civil associations, all of which stems from Islam as well as all international conventions that the Saudi government has signed and pledged to adhere to.

In short, to reach these goals of reform and for the sake of the well-being, stability, and continuation of both the state and society, including the Royal family, all what the "Saudi Reformers" have called for is a limited "Constitutional Monarchy" in Saudi Arabia; roughly speaking, a parallel to that, for example, in Bahrain, or in Jordan, and or to some extent in Morocco.

Eight months after the March 2004 arrests, their lawyer, Mr. Abdel-Rahman Al-Lahim, was re-imprisoned, held incommunicado in Alhayer Prison and never turned over to court. His crime was that he refused to stop defending his clients (Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid, Ali Al-Domini, and Dr. Matrook Al-Faleh).

On August 8, 2005, the three constitutional reformers along with their lawyer (Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid, Ali Al-Domini, Dr. Matrook Al-Faleh, Abdel-Rahman Al-Lahim) were released after a royal pardon was issued by King Abdullah.

By the pardon and the aftermath's release we've expected that every thing should be fine, but we've discovered overtime, that, as far as the right to leave the country is concerned, the 5-year ban on our travel, which was issued [. . .] at a time of [our] arrest (March 16, 2004) [. . . was still] in place.

Since our release we've been trying peacefully and quietly to solve the issue of travel with the Ministry of Interior, and to that end we've sent three collectively signed letters; the first to Prince Mohammed Bin Nayif, Assistant to the Minister of Interior; the second to the Minister of Interior, Price Nayif himself; the third to Mr. Turki Khalid Al-Sudairi, Head of the Saudi Governmental Commission on Human Rights, who in two separate meetings with some of us, including me in the first one, promised to solve the issue as a gesture of his seriousness and credibility as well as that of the newly born Commission he headed .Even the so-called "Saudi Society for Human Rights" [. . ] promised to include our case along with others in its 2005 report, without mentioning any specific names, as being a violation of basic human rights. [The report], which has been long overdue, has yet to be published.

The result so far [. . . has been] deaf ears and total ignorance by the Ministry y of Interior. As of now all we know is that all but two, (Dr. khalid Oujaimi and Dr. Tawfeeg Gusaier) of the so-called "Saudi Reformers" [. . .] jailed (on March 16, 2004) are unable to leave the country. While the continuation of the ban on [. . .] travel, not only deprives them of their natural rights, it also inflicts collective punishment on their families as they've been unable to [. . .] to travel without them.

Moreover, it shows clearly and unambiguously that such act on the part of the Ministry of Interior contradicts and violates the essence of Islam as well as all international and regional conventions on human rights including the Arab one of 2004 which the Saudi government agreed to, not to mention [. . . raising questions about] the credibility of the Saudi Governmental Commission on Human Rights as well as the so-called Saudi Society for Human Rights [. . .].

To end this statement, It is of high importance to reiterate and point out clearly that "Saudi Reformers", including myself, in their calls for reform, before, during and after [their] arrest, in present and in future, believe in and adhere to civil approach; that is open discussions and/or dialogues amongst themselves and with others, including the government; it is peaceful in essence in dealing with the issue of reform. They are not terrorists; they reject violence to achieve reform; they believe that through political reform, including establishing and working [with] civil associations, outlined briefly earlier, violence and radicalism can be fought and surely brought down.

 

Best greetings

 

Sincerely,

Matrook Alfaleh

Professor

Pol. Sc. Dept. KSU

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

November 6, 2006

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