Watchdog urges Saudi to free Shiite dissident

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Watchdog urges Saudi to free Shiite dissident

Post  Ali Mortada on Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:31 pm

Human Rights Watch called on Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to free Shia activist Munir Jassas, saying that no charges had been pressed five months after his detention by domestic intelligence agents.



Jassas was arrested on November 7 last year after posting on internet websites a series of calls for protests over the government's treatment of Shias, the New York-based watchdog said.

Shias make up about 10 percent of the population of the staunchly Sunni Muslim kingdom, and senior Saudi clerics frequently disparage Shias as rejecting the "true" Islam.

Jassas's arrest came two months after he had been required by the intelligence service to sign a pledge not to post any more critical pieces on the Internet.

One of his postings had expressed support for Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who earlier this year proposed that Shia-majority regions of Saudi Arabia -- which include some of the world's biggest oil fields -- break away after a spate of violent incidents involving Shias.

Saudi authorities have sought to arrest Nimr, who remains in hiding.

Human Rights Watch said that Jassas was held in solitary confinement for four months after being arrested, and that charges have yet to be pressed.

"Jailing a peaceful critic for months on end shows just how far Saudi officials will go to avoid criticism," the watchdog's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said.

"Silencing Shia advocates will do nothing to hide the Saudi government's record of harassment and discrimination against the group."
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Ali Mortada

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