11/07/2008, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA

With demonstrations banned Saudi activists launch online home-based hunger strike

The group calls for a reform of the legal system, changes to the constitution and the release of 11 reformers held in prison without trial. Students and intellectuals join the protest campaign via Facebook.
Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A group of Saudi activists began a rare public hunger strike on Thursday 6 November, demanding reforms to the judiciary and drawing attention to the issue of detention without trial of 11 political reformists. Since public protests are banned in Saudi Arabia they have opted instead to hold their strike in their homes. The 65 men and women protesters plan to continue the strike today.

Mohammad Al Qah'tani, one of the 13 activists who called for the protest, said “we don't want a confrontation with security forces,” for this reason they chose to go on a hunger strike at home.

The activists sent a letter to the government demanding the release of political prisoners, the improvement of prison conditions and a reform to the legal system, but failed to get a response.

“We used all legal means to make our voice heard, but we were ignored,” said Al Qah'tani, a college professor.

He added that that the protest will not turn to the streets because we “don't want to have problems with security forces that would not lead to any results.”

The leaders of the virtual revolt posted a statement on the social networking site Facebook, an online community frequented especially by the young, announcing the strike and urging other Saudis to join the political struggle. So far writers, lawyers and college students have joined in.

Human rights activist Matrook Al Faleh is among the 11 political prisoners. He was detained in May for advocating constitutional reforms and an end to the inhuman conditions in prison. Along with him, ten other activists were jailed in Jeddah in 2007.

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