Riyadh, Oct. 14 (Reuters): Saudi police fired into the air during a rare demonstration today and arrested up to 50 protesters calling for greater political reforms during the country’s first human rights conference.
The demonstration and arrests in Riyadh, came a day after the kingdom, an absolute monarchy, announced it would hold its first ever elections to vote for municipal councils.
The announcement by the cabinet under de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah followed growing demands for reform to allow wider political participation, elections and freedom of expression in the conservative Muslim state.
Witnesses said police fired into the air to disperse demonstrators today and arrested up to 50 individuals. The authorities also set up roadblocks to prevent them from reaching the building where the human rights conference was being held in central Riyadh. Witnesses said protesters, mostly under the age of 30 and wearing traditional Saudi flowing robes, chanted the Islamic rallying cry, “God is greatest”, and called for reforms.
Carrying banners, they also called for the release of political prisoners held in the kingdom.