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Thu 23 Dec 2010 09:33 AM

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Saudi protest group cancels sit-in after permit refused

Sit-in planned to lobby for political change in Gulf state, end to benefits for Kingdom's royal family

Saudi protest group cancels sit-in after permit refused
The organizers planned to call for greater political openness, more employment opportunities for Saudi citizens and an end to benefits given to members of the royal family

A Saudi democracy advocate group cancelled a
sit-in planned for Thursday to promote political change in the Middle East’s
least democratic country after being denied a permit by the kingdom’s Interior
Ministry.

“The
public sit-in organizers were summoned to the Ministry of Interior,” the Saudi
Civil and Political Rights Association said in an emailed statement .

“They were informed that the sit-in request was refused without providing
further legal justification preventing peaceful assemblies and protests.”

Saudi
Arabia, a G-20 member, is an absolute monarchy ruled by six kings since it was
established in 1932. King Abdullah, who is the 13th son of the founder King
Abdulaziz, has ruled the world’s largest oil supplier since 2005. He is currently recovering from back surgery in New York.

The
Riyadh-based democracy group announced last month that it would hold the sit-in
this week in the capital. The organizers planned to call for greater political
openness, more employment opportunities for Saudi citizens and an end to
benefits given to members of the kingdom’s royal family.

“Activities
such as these are prohibited under Saudi law,” the Interior Ministry spokesman,
Major General Mansour al-Turki, said in a phone interview.

Saudi
Arabia ranks 160th out
of 167 countries worldwide, according to the Democracy Index for 2010 published
by the Economist Intelligence Unit. All political parties and organizations are
banned in Saudi Arabia.