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SAUDI ARABIA: Protests ‘contradict’ Islamic law and are banned, Interior ministry declares

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After demonstrators staged protests demanding the release of political prisoners, and activists urged sweeping reforms in Saudi Arabia, the ultra-conservative kingdom appears to have decided to put the lid on street-based calls for change.

[Updated at 9:25 a.m.: The headline on an earlier version of this post said demonstrations by Shiites were deemed to contradict Islamic law. The interior ministry said all demonstrations, not just ones by Shiites, were contrary to Islamic law.]

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry reportedly issued a statement deeming all sorts of protests in the kingdom illegal with the explanation that demonstrations are not in line with Islamic law and values of Saudi society.

‘Regulations in the kingdom forbid categorically all sorts of demonstrations, marches and sit-ins ... as they contradict Islamic Sharia law and the values and traditions of Saudi society,’ said a ministry statement published on the official SPA state news agency.

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It added that Saudi police are ‘authorized ... to take all measures needed against those who try to break the law.’

A day earlier, several hundred people from Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority community marched in towns in the eastern province, demanding the release of an arrested cleric and political detainees. Last month, more than 100 Saudi activists and intellectuals called on King Abdullah to set up a constitutional monarchy and implement sweeping reforms in the Sunni-dominated country.

There are also activist calls on Facebook for a ‘Day of Rage’ on March 11 in the austere kingdom and for a ‘Saudi revolution’ on March 20.

--Alexandra Sandels in Beirut


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