Saudis gather to demand release of prisoners

Sun Mar 20, 2011 7:24am EDT
 
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By Jason Benham

RIYADH (Reuters) - Dozens of Saudi men gathered outside the Interior Ministry in the capital Riyadh on Sunday to demand the release of jailed relatives, amid a heavy police presence.

Some were seen arguing with police but were not shouting slogans or holding protest signs. At least 50 police cars surrounded the ministry, and three men were seen by a Reuters witness being put into police cars.

"We have seen at least three or four police vehicles taking people away," said an activist there who declined to be named. "Security have arrested around 15 people. They tried to go into the ministry to go and ask for the freedom of their loved ones."

Dozens of men in traditional white robes and red headdresses gathered outside while a large number of police and security forces watched.

Saudi Arabia, which practices the puritanical Wahhabi school of Islam and has no elected parliament, has warned those seeking reform that protests will not be tolerated, as they violate the Koran's teachings.

The men gathered at the interior ministry two days after Saudi Arabia's ruler, King Abdullah, offered $93 billion-worth of wage increases, jobs and construction projects, but gave no political concessions.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki could not confirm the arrests.

"There are many people who come to the ministry to see different officials for different reason," he told Reuters.   Continued...