23 Jul 2011

Amnesty condemns 'repressive' Saudi law

4:26 am on 23 July 2011

Amnesty International has strongly condemned an anti-terrorism law drawn up by Saudi Arabian authorities, which it says will criminalise political dissent.

The draft law, which is classified as secret, makes it an offence to question the integrity of the King or Crown Prince. Amnesty says it would "strangle peaceful protest".

The BBC has been shown a classified copy of the draft law showing a number of measures Amnesty said would severely restrict human rights.

These include lengthy detention without trial, restricted legal access and increased use of the death penalty.

A Saudi official told the BBC it was directed at terrorists, not dissidents.

The Saudi government has so far declined to comment, but the senior official, who did not want to be named, confirmed the existence of the draft law and did not dispute the clauses contained in it.

Amnesty International's Middle East press officer James Lynch told the BBC the draft law - a copy of which was leaked to the human rights group - "seeks to entrench some of the most repressive practices that Amnesty has been documenting for years".

Among the measures proposed is a broadening of the definition of a terrorist crime to include any action deemed to be "harming the reputation of the state" or "endangering national unity", the BBC reports.