First Published: 2017-09-13

Saudi rounds up 20 people in crackdown
Saudi authorities arrest at least 20 people in move analysts say is further sign of Mohammed bin Salman's attempts to consolidate power.
Middle East Online

Rights groups say Saudi record on freedom of expression is 'getting worse'.

RIYADH - Saudi authorities have arrested at least 20 people, including prominent clerics Salman al-Awdah and Awad al-Qarni, in an apparent crackdown on dissent, activists and family members have said.

The arrests started on September 9 and on Tuesday included six clerics and Awdah's brother, Khaled, for apparently disclosing that his brother had been detained, activists said.

Khaled al-Awdah had confirmed on his Twitter account on Monday that his brother was in custody.

The leading cleric was arrested after he welcomed the first contact between Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatar's emir Sheikh Tameem bin Hamad Al-Thani after a three-month boycott.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed all ties on June 5 and imposed economic sanctions on Qatar accusing it of links to extremist groups.

They cited Doha's longstanding support for the Muslim Brotherhood, blacklisted by the four Arab governments as a terrorist group, although not by Western governments or the United Nations.

Hopes raised by the contact of a thaw in the Gulf's worst diplomatic crisis in decades were swiftly dashed as Saudi Arabia suspended any further dialogue.

Awdah and Qarni, who have millions of followers on social media, were among Saudi clerics who opposed the presence of US troops in the kingdom during the 1991 Gulf war.

Qarni has been accused of links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Prominent Saudi journalist and writer Jamal Khashoggi said that he was banned from writing in Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayat, apparently for defending the Brotherhood in tweets.

A Twitter account called Motakl (Detained) run by activists opposed to the Saudi government reported the names of at least 21 people who have been rounded up so far, most of them clerics.

The account cited unnamed sources as expecting the number of arrests to double in the coming days.

It launched a petition calling for the immediate release of the detainees.

Human Rights Watch said that it had no direct information on the arrests but that they could be connected to Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to consolidate power.

"What I can say is that it is very reflective of Saudi Arabia's approach to political or religious dissent," HRW Middle East researcher Adam Coogle, said.

"Saudi Arabia has a horrendous record on freedom of expression and you can say things are getting worse," he added.

 

Russia again blocks UN resolution on Syria action

Iraq retakes Rawa, last town held by IS

Riyadh striking deals with people detained in anti-graft purge

France worried by Iran's 'hegemonic' intentions

Football club a symbol for Swedish-Kurdish cohesion

UN weighs bid to save Syria gas attacks probe

IS attack kills 26 displaced people in Syria

Saudi FM says Lebanon 'held hostage by Hezbollah'

Egypt to open Rafah crossing for 3 days

Turkish troops pulled from NATO drill amid new tensions

Six children among civilians killed in shelling of Eastern Ghouta

US official calls on Sudan to stop 'church demolitions'

Hariri set to leave Saudi Arabia for France

Fears of bombs, IS cells still haunt Mosul

Iran criticises French Mideast policy

Israel military chief says ready to cooperate with Saudi Arabia

Egypt confirms death of wanted jihadist

UK denies link between citizen detained in Iran and £400m debt

Qatar sets temporary minimum wage for migrant workers

Top US official begins Sudan trip

Hamas says Israeli assassins in Tunisia used Bosnian passports

Syria army enters last IS-held town

Russia, Turkey, Iran to hold Syria summit

Saudi FM rejects accusations Hariri in Saudi Arabia against his will

Lebanon’s president awaits Hariri return before next move

Iran pushing for Hamas-Hezbollah reconciliation

French PM in Rabat to boost trade, cooperation

Ankara bans German gay film festival

Lebanon PM to travel to Paris

Libyan fighter jets strike IS camp south of Sirte

Russia, US headed for UN showdown over Syria gas attacks probe

Palestinians wait as Egypt keeps border closed

UN fails to push Saudi coalition to lift Yemen blockade

Erdogan pledges military support for Qatar on Doha visit

France pursues tough line on Iran missile programme

flydubai orders 737 MAXs worth $27bn from Boeing

Sudanese journalists oppose new press law

Turkey, Afghanistan, ex-Soviet trio sign corridor agreement

Politics aside, Lebanese want Hariri return

Lebanese president accuses Riyadh of detaining PM

Aid slow to reach Iranian villages hit by quake

Yemenis struggle as Saudi blockade wears on

Israel PM offers quake aid to arch foe Iran

US-led coalition says foreign jihadists may have escaped Raqa

Iran pledges swift aid after major earthquake