Saudi authorities block Amnesty web site

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have reportedly blocked the web site of Amnesty International after the human rights organisation criticised the kingdom over a proposed law which would allow peaceful protesters to be treated as terrorists.

Full copies of the draft law, which were apparently leaked to Amnesty by an anonymous whistle blower, "posed a serious threat to freedom of expression in the Kingdom in the name of preventing terrorism," according to Amnesty's deputy director for the region Philip Luther.

“If passed it would pave the way for even the smallest acts of peaceful dissent to be branded terrorism and risk massive human rights violations," he said yesterday when the draft law was first unearthed.

“At a time when people throughout the Middle East and North Africa have been exercising their legitimate right to express dissent and call for change, Saudi Arabian authorities have been seeking to squash this right for its citizens.

“King Abdullah must reconsider this law and ensure that his people’s legitimate right to freedom of expression is not curtailed in the name of fighting terrorism.”

Rather than reconsidering anything, it looks like King Abdullah has told his minions to wipe Amnesty from the face of the Internet as far as the Saudi people are concerned.

"Earlier today, our main International site - the bit of Amnesty that does the majority of our research - was blocked by the Saudi authorities following our criticism of a proposed anti-terror law," an Amnesty spokesman said today.

The organisation suggests that the Saudi authorities have got the hump because it has full copies of the draft law (Arabic).

"Although the Saudi authorities have blocked our main international site, they haven’t yet blocked any Amnesty UK site, as far as we know. So we’re hosting the Arabic version of the release for all to see," the statement continues.

The draft legislation, according to a possibly inaccurate Google translation, would allow protesters and dissenters to be arrested and detained in isolation without trial for 120 days or even indefinitely.

It would also allow authorities to apply the death penalty to anyone 'carrying arms' against the state.

In a press statement, the Saudi Embassy in London said that Amnesty had attacked the draft law without consulting the authorities for clarity or comment and that the orgaisation's claims were "baseless, mere supposition on their part, and completely without foundation."

"Amnesty’s suggestion that this draft law would be used to suppress dissent, rather than against terrorists, is wrong," said the Ambassador, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf.

"We are deeply concerned that while alleging, without foundation, that we might act without integrity, Amnesty has not behaved ethically towards us as it did not contact us about their concerns regarding this draft law.

"This is not the first time Amnesty has failed to contact us about accusations regarding the Kingdom. This latest incident adds to our concern that there is a campaign by Amnesty and other individuals and organisations to malign Saudi Arabia in the media merely with the aim of damaging the reputation of the Kingdom."

The Embassy says that it will be writing to the Secretary General of Amnesty.