[JURIST] A collective of Saudi citizens [Google group] began a 48-hour hunger strike Thursday to protest what it called the illegal detention of 11 political reformists and to call for judicial reform. The protesters, who include Saudi lawyers, scholars, and activists, hope to call attention to Saudi legal and criminal procedures, which they say are not offering full protection to political prisoners. In particular, they point to Article 114 of the Saudi Criminal Procedure and Detention Law [text], which states that the aggregate detention of prisoners shall not extend past 40 days from the day of arrest without a trial. Several of the 11 political reformers have been in prison for close to 18 months with no trial. The hunger strike is controversial in part because of a Saudi law that bans public gatherings, protests, and political parties. Many of those participating hope to avoid a legal backlash by observing the strike within their own homes so as not to create a public gathering. Instead, participants are seeking a virtual gathering by calling for support through blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook [Support for Saudi Hunger Strike Facebook group]. AP has more. From Abu Dhabi, The National has additional coverage.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has previously criticized [JURIST report] Saudi Arabias criminal procedure as arbitrary in its enforcement and violative of due process rights. Last month Amnesty International [advocacy website] issued a report calling the Saudi justice system flawed and linking these problems to the high rate of executions in the country.