Middle East

Saudi Arabia rejects Amnesty repression claims

A Saudi policeman checks a driver in Saudi Arabia's eastern Gulf coast town of Qatif 25 November 2011
Image caption Saudi Arabia has stepped up security in its restive Eastern Province

Saudi Arabia has said that a report by Amnesty International - accusing the kingdom of reacting to the Arab Spring by launching a wave of repression - is based on "inaccurate information".

The human rights group said hundreds of people had been arrested in the east, many of them without charge or trial.

The Saudi embassy in London said only people who were endangering the lives of others were arrested.

Most of those were released without charge after questioning, it said.

In a statement, the embassy said that it was not the case that defendants were blindfolded or handcuffed during a trial, as this would not be allowed by a Saudi Arabian court.

Responding to criticism that the draft anti-terror law would effectively criminalise dissent as a "terrorist crime" and allow long periods of detention without charge or trial, the embassy stressed that the law was still a draft and would not be made law until it was found to be in compliance with Sharia law.

Amnesty alleged that torture and ill treatment of detainees were widespread in Saudi Arabia.

The country's ambassador to the UK, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud, said that Saudi Arabia was "committed to and respects human rights in accordance with Islamic Sharia".

The kingdom was a target for terrorists seeking finance and recruits, he added.

"It is our responsibility to do everything we can to combat this evil," he said.

Qatif clashes

The report comes a little more than a week after clashes in the eastern region of Qatif left four people dead - apparently the first deaths in this year's unrest.

They were killed when security forces opened fire using live ammunition, an indication that tensions in the predominantly Shia Eastern Province continue to escalate.

The interior ministry said the four were "armed aggressors hiding among civilians." A ministry spokesman blamed "foreign parties" - usually code for Iran - for fomenting unrest.

But a Shia activist told the BBC that at least one of those killed was unarmed when he was shot dead at a checkpoint for failing to stop. The others died the following day as protests erupted at his funeral, he said.

The activist, who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions, accused the government of taking the easy route by blaming everything on an Iranian conspiracy.

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