Saudi Arabia police break up small protest

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, March 20 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabian security forces arrested several people demonstrating outside the Interior Ministry in Riyadh Sunday, witnesses said.

Around 100 protesters had gathered to demand authorities release their jailed relatives, democracy activist Mohammed Al-Qahtani told CNN.


"They arrested a lot of people," he said. "They started putting them in police cars and even buses to take them away." Police dispersed the rest of the crowd, he added.

The government did not immediately respond to requests for comment, CNN said.

Saudi Arabia has been relatively quiet so far as democracy revolts sweep the Arab world. King Abdullah promised reforms last week, but dissidents responded with disappointment Friday.

The Saudi monarch promised to establish an anti-corruption agency and announced major public works, but other steps actually expand the powers of the government and religious authorities.

"I feel disappointed, to say the least," one activist who would not give his name for fear of retribution told CNN. "I do believe after these decrees, instead of sweeping reforms, they'll start sweeping up the activists."

One "reform" is a ban on the media disrespecting the views of Muslim scholars and the Koran.


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