Saudi Arabia frees pro-democracy activist


"They have accused him of violating a security blockade and inciting women to stage a sit-in," reformer Khaled Al Omair said in reference to Abdullah Al Hamed.

Omair said Hamed was released on bail and it was not clear if he would face trial.

Hamed was detained along with five women on Thursday in Buraida north of Riyadh after security forces said they had found a secret weapons stash at the home of a woman, Rima Al Juraish, who organised a women’s sit-in outside Buraida state security headquarters over the detentions of their husbands.

Acquaintances said the weapons were planted by police. Rima Juraish was released on Sunday and the other four women were held only for several hours.

Hamed is the lawyer for Juraish’s husband, one of 3,000 men the authorities admit are being held in detention without charge on suspicion of links to militants. Al Qaeda-linked Islamists launched a campaign to bring down the monarchy in 2003, targeting government installations, foreigners and the oil industry.

Hamed was one of three reform activists jailed in 2005 for organising a petition calling for Saudi Arabia, a US ally and the world’s largest oil exporter, to be transformed from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional democracy.

King Abdullah pardoned the men later that year after he ascended to the throne of the vast desert kingdom, which has no political parties and bans street protests.

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