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Wed 28 Mar 2012 02:42 PM

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Rights group slams Saudi ban on lawyer's US visit

Gulf kingdom slapped travel ban on lawyer attending democracy course

Rights group slams Saudi ban on lawyer's US visit

An international rights group has slammed Saudi Arabian authorities for refusing to allow a prominent lawyer to visit the US.

Saudi national Abu al-Khair had been due to attend a six-week course on democracy at New York’s Syracuse University, but has instead been prevented from leaving the Gulf kingdom.

Amnesty International says that the action is “unjust” and “violates his right to freedom of movement”.

Authorities in Saudi say that the ban was imposed out of “security considerations”, a claim which Amnesty International rejects.

"Abu al-Khair’s travel ban was not issued by judicial ruling and the 'security considerations' given as the grounds for this prohibition failed to be specific and were open to broad interpretation," said Ann Harrison, interim Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director

“At the very least we can say this travel ban is unjust. Otherwise, we can only speculate about the possible reasons that may have triggered the Saudi Arabian authorities’ decision to impose such a ban - but most likely it is related to his or his wife’s work in defending human rights," she added.

Officials at the Ministry of Interior in Jeddah, where al-Khair resides, told him that there was no time frame for when the ban would be lifted.