RIYADH (Dispatches) – Saudi regime authorities have released 11 citizens who were detained for several days last month for questioning over suspected links to foreign entities, a Saudi official told Reuters.
The new wave of detentions came as the regime assumes the presidency of the Group of 20 countries amid sustained Western criticism of its human rights record following last year’s killing of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.
The detainees were questioned on suspicion of receiving funds from foreign countries and coordinating with hostile organizations, the official told Reuters without providing more details or evidence.
None of them have been indicted but the case remains open and charges could still be laid, added the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The reason remains unclear as the people are not considered frontline activists, though some had written previously about the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
Sources, including London-based Saudi rights group ALQST, said last week that around 10 people, mostly writers and intellectuals, had been taken from their homes by plainclothes police. As of Sunday, the sources had not confirmed everyone’s release.
Activists have decried the detentions as the latest wave in a crackdown on dissent which gathered pace in September 2017 with the arrests of prominent clerics, some of whom could now face the death penalty.
An anti-corruption campaign two months later netted top businessmen and senior officials, several of which have not been heard from since.
In mid-2018, around a dozen women’s rights activists who had called for ending a ban on women driving were arrested just as Riyadh lifted it.
The public prosecutor has said some of them were suspected of harming Saudi interests and offering support to hostile elements abroad.
This April, eight people, including two U.S. citizens, who had supported the detained women were also arrested.