New Saudi Law Threatens Critics with “Terrorism” Charges | Freedom House

New Saudi Law Threatens Critics with “Terrorism” Charges

Freedom House is deeply concerned by Saudi Arabia’s ratification February 2 of an anti-terrorism law that criminalizes certain actions and forms of speech. Anyone committing an act deemed to “undermine” or “destabilize” the state or society could be charged with terrorism. Such acts include calling for regime change, threatening national unity, and “offending the nation’s reputation.”

Freedom House calls on King Abdullah to rescind the law, which would otherwise lead to suppression of basic human rights, most likely falling disproportionately on women, minorities, human rights defenders, and critics of the ruling family.

The law grants security services additional powers, including the ability to conduct phone and internet surveillance and to raid homes and offices of suspected terrorists without prior approval from a judge. Security forces may now detain suspects for up to 12 months, and suspects may be held incommunicado for 90 days. Suspects’ lawyers are not permitted to attend the initial interrogation. Finally, the interior minister alone has the power to commute sentences or drop charges against a person on trial.

Activists have pointed out that such vague definitions may mean that a woman who is caught driving, in violation of the Saudi ban on women’s driving, could be charged as a terrorist under the new law for allegedly disrupting public order.

Learn more:
Arabic عربي Version of Alert
Freedom in the World 2013: Saudi Arabia
Freedom of the Press 2013: Saudi Arabia
Freedom on the Net 2013: Saudi Arabia
Blog: Freedom at Issue