Controversial Saudi counterterrorism law goes into effect
Iran Press TV
Sun Feb 2, 2014 9:51PM GMT
Saudi Arabia has put into effect a controversial counterterrorism law that allows Riyadh to prosecute as a terrorist anyone who demands reform, exposes corruption or protests against the kingdom's policies.
The law, passed by the council of ministers and ratified by King Abdullah in December last year, went into effect on Saturday.
The legislation, made up of 40 clauses, states that any action that 'undermines' the state or society, including calls for change of government in Riyadh, can be tried as a terrorist act. The law also gives security forces and intelligence agencies sweeping powers to raid homes and track phone calls and Internet activity.
Human rights activists have strongly criticized the measure, saying it is clearly aimed at keeping the House of Saud fully in control amid the demands for democratic reform in the country.
Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, a Saudi activist, called the law a 'catastrophe.'
Adam Coogle, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said, 'The new law is draconian in spirit and letter, and there is every reason to fear that the authorities will easily and eagerly use it against peaceful dissidents.'
A large number of activists, clerics, judges and journalists have been jailed in Saudi Arabia for voicing their opposition to the kingdom's policies.
Over the past 10 years, Saudi Arabia has also arrested thousands of people and accused them of being involved with al-Qaeda.
Human rights activists say many of the detainees have been peaceful political activists.
Human rights groups say there are over 40,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, many of them being held without trial or charges.
There have been numerous demonstrations in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province since February 2011, with protestors calling for political reform.
Anti-government protests have intensified since November 2011, when security forces opened fire on protestors in Qatif, killing five people and leaving scores more injured.
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