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Sat 23 Jul 2011 09:45 AM

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Saudi Arabia denies Amnesty Int'l claims on terror laws

Organisation says proposed laws would allow authorities to prosecute dissent as terrorist crime

Saudi Arabia denies Amnesty Int'l claims on terror laws
Amnesty Internationals logo

Saudi Arabia denied allegations
by Amnesty International that an anti-terrorism law under consideration
will be used to suppress dissent in the kingdom, the official Saudi
Press Agency reported.

Saudi Arabia
“would like to point out that Amnesty’s concerns about this law are
baseless,” the news service said, citing a statement from the kingdom’s
UK embassy. An anti-terrorism draft law is under review at the Saudi
Shoura Council, an appointed advisory body, SPA added.

The planned
anti-terrorism law will pose “a serious threat to freedom of expression
in the kingdom,” Amnesty International said yesterday in a statement on
its website after reviewing a copy of the draft. It paves “the way for
even the smallest acts of peaceful dissent to be branded terrorism,”
Amnesty International said.

Islamic
militants launched a serious of violent strikes in Saudi Arabia to
weaken the Al Saud ruling family’s control of the world’s largest oil
reserves and break the kingdom’s relationship with its US ally.

Militants targeted Western nationals in a campaign of kidnappings and
bombings from 2003 until a crackdown, led by the Saudi Ministry of
Interior, suppressed extremist activity.

The
definition of “terrorist crimes in the draft is so broad that it lends
itself to wide interpretation and abuse, and would in effect criminalize
legitimate dissent,” Amnesty said.

Terrorist
crimes as defined by the legislation would including “endangering”
national unity, “halting the basic law or some of its articles” or
“harming the reputation of the state or its position,” according to
Amnesty International.

Saudi Arabia
has arrested 11,527 people since September 11, 2001, for their alleged
involvement in terrorism, the ministry said on April 24. A Saudi court
will try 85 suspected al-Qaeda militants for their alleged roles in
attacks against three housing compounds in Riyadh in May 2003, the news
service said on July 3.

“The
continued growth of al-Qaeda presents us with a serious challenge, and
policies that prevent this group from establishing an affiliated network
in the kingdom are necessary,” SPA cited the embassy as stating.
“Regional unrest provides a breeding ground for new threats.”

Gulf
Cooperation Council members, including Saudi Arabia, are concerned that
instability in neighboring Yemen may be used by al-Qaeda to plot attacks
and destabilize the kingdom. The Gulf group has tried to negotiate a
settlement to Yemen’s unrest after protests against President Ali
Abdullah Saleh started in January.