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Protesting is a 'corrupt' act: Saudi cleric

Saudi cleric calls protesting an 'act of corruption' and indicates demands for change to the govt should be made 'politely'

Ahram Online , Sunday 3 Mar 2013
Saudi Arabia
Protesters in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, demand the release of prisoners they say are held without trial (Photo: Reuters)
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Saleh Al-Fawzan, member of the Saudi Committee for Scholarly Research and Issuing Fatwas, described protesting in front of government and ministerial buildings as an "act of corruption," the Saudi Al-Sharq newspaper reports on Sunday.

"Calling state officials to revisit their policies and decisions should be done politely and in the right moment," Al-Fawzan said during a lecture at Al-Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University.

"Factionalism is religiously forbidden as it causes divisions among the people; the whole nation should act collaboratively."

The committee, regarded as the largest official religious body in the Gulf ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, issued a detailed fatwa (religious edict) in March 2011 in which it condemned the Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations in the country at that time.

The fatwa included a clear religious warning against protests, for it might lead to "political chaos," according to Al-Arabiya’s website.

Saudi police have arrested 176 people, including 15 women, for holding an illegal protest to demand the release of Islamist prisoners, the official SPA news agency reported late Friday.

The agency, quoting a police spokesman, said protesters were arrested "after refusing to break up a gathering outside the offices of the investigation bureau and the prosecution in Buraida," in central Saudi Arabia.

Small groups of women have gathered almost daily in Buraida, north of Riyadh, to demand the release of imprisoned Islamist relatives and dozens of protesters held a rare sit-in outside the Buraida prison in September.

The spokesman accused the protesters of acting on behalf of "deviant groups" - a term the authorities usually use to refer to the Al-Qaeda jihadist network.

An independent Saudi rights organisation told AFP that there are about 30,000 political prisoners in the Gulf kingdom, a charge Riyadh denies, saying there are none.

"Instead of persecuting peaceful protesters, what the Saudi authorities should do is listen to their demands and release all those held solely for exercising their human rights," Amnesty International said on its website.

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