Rice told to stay out of Saudi case

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has no right to speak about the case of three jailed activists whose cause she took up during a recent visit to Riyadh, says Saudi Interior Minister Nayef bin Abdel Aziz.

    Rice raised the issue of three jailed Saudis on her recent visit

    "It's an internal matter, nobody has the right to speak about it," the minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the official SPA news agency.
      
    Rice flew into Riyadh last week during a regional swing after delivering a major speech in Cairo calling for sweeping democratic change and naming Saudi Arabia as one of the states still lagging. 
      
    "Three individuals in particular are currently imprisoned for peacefully petitioning their government - and this should not be a crime in any country." she told 600 Egyptian officials, scholars and students at Cairo's American University.
      
    Activists jailed

    She was referring to three activists sentenced to between six and nine years in prison in May on charges of demanding a constitutional monarch in the ultra-conservative Gulf country. 
      

    "They are in the hands of the court. The government cannot interfere"

    Prince Saud al-Faisal,
    Saudi foreign minister

      

    Ali al-Demaini, Abdullah al-Hamed and Matruk al-Faleh were found guilty of  "using Western terminology" in formulating their demands.

    They also allegedly questioned the king's role as head of the judiciary.
      
    The trio were the last activists held from a dozen people arrested in March 2004.
      
    Official protest

    The US State Department had already registered concern over the fate of the activists and Rice raised the matter in her talks here with the Saudi leadership.
      
    Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said after his talks with Rice that he had told her that the prisoners had broken the law. "They are in the hands of the court. The government cannot interfere until the court action is taken in this regard."
      
    "The row is really meaningless," he said then. "The assessment that is important for any country in the development of its political reform is the judgment of its own people."

    SOURCE: AFP


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.