2. Turning up the Heat against Reformist Petitioners

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Gulf sources report that a new reformist petition is being prepared in Saudi Arabia. The authors claim that the situation in the kingdom is worsening and that the reformists are being persecuted by the authorities. As we have already reported, some petitioners are being threatened, told to stop their reformist activities, and barred from talking to the foreign media. Some reform campaigners even say that they have been banned from traveling abroad; a few, together with family members, are being told to report to the Saudi secret service.

The new petition under preparation is aimed specifically at Saudi interior minister Prince Nayef. He is accused of interfering personally to prevent reformists in Jedda and Riyadh gathering for meetings; his deputy, Amir Abed Aziz bin Fayed, is said to have telephoned some of the reformists and threatened them with reprisals if they did not stop their activities.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Saudi sources, on Sunday, January 11, Nayef invited 20 leading reformists from Riyadh, Mecca and Jeddah to come and meet him in Riyadh as soon as possible. The reformists declined, fearing they would not meet the minister but find themselves under arrest.

Sensing a sword hanging over their heads, all 20 signed a joint pledge: in case any are arrested, the others will guarantee the safety of their families, and do everything in their power to bring about their release. Some leading reformists began, for the first time in the kingdom’s history, to stage public demonstrations and hunger strikes in Saudi cities.

This week, however, the Saudi interior minister became the first senior royal to admit frankly and publicly that there is corruption in the regime, a hint that all is not lost for the reformist cause one of whose demands is to root out corruption in government. Speaking to reporters in Riyadh on Wednesday, January 15, after signing multimillion contracts for 36 projects, Prince Nayef urged contractors to keep away from corrupt practices. Seeking public support to fight bribery, he said, “It is the responsibility of all to fight this disease. We have to fight bribery because if it takes root in any society it would destroy everything.”

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