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Saudi forces arrest women and children protesters

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 10 February 2013 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounces the arrest of dozens of Saudi women at a protest in which they were demanding the release of their relatives who have been held for years without access to lawyers or a trial.

Protesters were demonstrating in two Saudi cities on 9 February 2013. One group of women protested in front of the Board of Grievances in the city of Buraidah, while another group stood in front of the National Society for Human Rights, an organisation affiliated with the Saudi government in Riyadh.

The Saudi security forces assaulted female demonstrators and harassed passersby who were taking pictures of the peaceful demonstrations. Some demonstrators were banned from raising the banners they carried with them. The women, some of them accompanied by their children, were then surrounded and many of them arrested. In Buraidah, 26 women and 13 children were arrested and taken to the Buraidah police station.

According to some activists, officers at the Buraidah police station banned the children from drinking water and held all of them in one room without sheets. The investigation committee at the station attempted to investigate the women without the attendance of lawyers; the women refused.

The arrest of the women protesters led to another demonstration in front of the Criminal Investigation Administration in Riyadh that called for their release. The security forces threatened the men attending the protest with arrest after they refused to sign a declaration promising that the women will not assemble again in demand of the release of their relatives.

"The repeated arrest of women demanding the release of their relatives who have been held in prisons for years without being charged or tried is a serious violation of freedom of expression," said ANHRI, "the continued campaign of prosecutions launched by the Saudi authorities to intimidate and silence the families of the detainees also sheds light on those countries that are allies of Saudi Arabia that claim they are sponsors of democracy and free expression around the world but remain silent regarding the violations perpetrated by Saudi Arabia because of their economic ties to the regime."

ANHRI calls on the Saudi government to immediately release all female detainees and to respect freedom of expression and the right to peacefully demonstrate.

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