Saudi Prince Khaled Bin Farhan Al-Saud has defected from his country; as many as 30,000 dissidents from a single group have been imprisoned.
The prince says that he and his family left because of suppression of free speech, corruption by the monarchy, and arrests of those who dare to dissent.
“There is no independent judiciary, as both police and the prosecutor’s office are accountable to the Interior Ministry. This ministry’s officials investigate ‘crimes’ (they call them crimes), related to freedom of speech. So they fabricate evidence, don’t allow people to have attorneys”, the prince told RT Arabic. “Even if a court rules to release such a ‘criminal’, the Ministry of Interior keeps him in prison, even though there is a court order to release him. There have even been killings! Killings! And as for the external opposition, Saudi intelligence forces find these people abroad! There is no safety inside or outside the country.”
Political parties are banned in Saudi Arabia. Those wishing to campaign for civil rights must receive permission from the monarchy. One group that failed to be licensed, Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), has reported that more than 30,000 of their members have been imprisoned.
“Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responded with force to demonstrations by citizens,” Human Rights Watch begins the country’s profile on its website.
Anti-government groups are growing. In late July a group calling themselves ‘Saudi Million’ formed independently of any other political group. They are mostly young, and are demanding the release of political prisoners. They plan to continue their protests and announce them on Facebook and other electronic newspapers.
RT reports that increased human rights violations are driving people into the streets to protest, in spite of the threat of arrest.
Activist Hala Al-Dosari told RT: “We have issues related to political and civil rights, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. These are the main issues that cause a lot of people to be at risk for just voicing out their opinions or trying to form associations, demonstrate or protest, which is banned by the government.”
‘Saudi Assange;’ His Twitter name is @Mujtahidd, is one of the loudest voices in the opposition. He keeps his location an unknown. He is believed to have over a million followers.
“The regime can destroy your credibility easily and deter people from dealing with you if your identity is public,” Mujtahid wrote to RT’s Lindsay France in an email.
“The government is obviously scared of the Arab revolutions. And they’ve responded as they usually do: by resorting to oppression, violence, arbitrary law, and arrest,” Prince Khaled says.
“The opposition used to demand wider people’s representation in governing bodies, more rights and freedoms. But the authorities reacted with violence and persecution, instead of a dialogue. So the opposition raised the bar. It demanded constitutional monarchy, similar to what they have in the UK, for example. And the Saudi regime responded with more violence. So now the bar is even higher. Now the opposition wants this regime gone.”
Thousands of Saudi dissidents have been imprisoned. Thousands more are taking to the streets in protest.