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Activist detained for supporting religious freedom

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 17 May 2012 - ANHRI condemns the detention of Kamel Abbas al-Ahmed, engineer and brother of the Saudi dissident Ali Abbas al-Ahmed, head of the Gulf Institute in Washington. The Saudi security services escorted Kamel al-Ahmed to an unknown destination without giving any reasons for his detention and without a warrant.

This is not the first time that al-Ahmed, a Shiite activist, has been detained. He was harassed by the security services and detained for nearly nine years in the Kingdom's prisons without clear reasons. His passport was also seized almost 18 months ago to deny him the freedom to travel outside the country.

In 2009, al-Ahmed rejected the remarks of Adelal-Kelbani, the Imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, judging Shiites as non-believers. He was among a group of activists and writers who issued a statement holding the political authority responsible for the ongoing sectarian discrimination against Shiites and followers of other Islamic sects that are different from the Salafi ideology of the state, and the fatwas that charge them with infidelity. The activists attributed this policy to the government's persistence in denying Shiites participation in the management of the state and excluding them from the process of decision making and the general policy of the country.

Although the authorities have failed to provide reasons for al-Ahmed's detention, it is likely due to his activities, as well as his brother's activities as a Saudi dissident abroad. It is also an attempt to pressure and intimidate him to stop criticizing the Saudi authorities.

It is worth noting that al-Ahmed's detention coincides with a security campaign launched by the government against residents of the eastern province that is targeting writers, intellectuals, and rights activists in an attempt to crush the over one year old movement demanding democracy, freedom of belief, and the release of tens of thousands of citizens who have been extra-judicially detained.

ANHRI is deeply disturbed by the Saudi regime's ongoing policing of democracy and human rights defenders, while it also refrains from applying any reforms in its racist government that persecutes religious minorities and women.

"Saudi Arabia is one of the dictatorships that deprives their citizens of their inherent rights, especially freedom of opinion and expression. It is necessary for all those concerned in the region and the world to urgently pressure this autocracy to cease its crimes against all citizens on its territory, whether Saudis or foreigners. Saudi Arabia should not feel safe to continue to transform the country into the largest open-air prison in the world," said ANHRI.

ANHRI calls on the Arab and international communities to pressure the Saudi government to improve its shameful record in human rights and not to rule out the option of resorting to international mechanisms to protect human rights there.

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