World News

Wives of Saudi militancy suspects want public trial

RIYADH (Reuters) - Wives of Saudi men detained as part of a Saudi crackdown on militants fighting to topple the U.S.-allied monarchy held a protest on Saturday demanding the men be tried publicly.

The protest was the second this summer, after a similar one in July which led to the brief detention of some of the women.

The women gathered outside provincial offices in the town of Buraida north of Riyadh, said Mohammed Saleh al-Bijadi, a supporter of the protesting women.

“We demand that the men are granted their right to have lawyers and that they face a public trial,” said a statement handed by the group of eight women and their children to the authorities.

“A ministerial committee should be formed to investigate violations and torture inside the prisons, and our sons and husbands must be brought back to prison in Buraida.”

The detainees, who have been held for periods ranging from two to five years, were removed to Riyadh in June for induction in a “correction” programme run by clerics that authorities say has led more than 700 suspects to “repent”.

Their families say they have suffered mistreatment since they were moved to Riyadh.

An Interior Ministry spokesman was not available for comment.

Participants in the protest said the women carried placards bearing the image of King Abdullah and others saying “Ministry of Interior, try the detainees legally and openly”.

Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz has said that about 3,000 people remained in detention out of a total of 9,000 arrested since Islamist militants allied to al Qaeda launched a violent campaign in May 2003.

Saudi officials have suggested that some detainees would be put on trial this year, and called on clerics to dissuade Saudis from joining militant groups in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.