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Austin Cline

Inside the Saudi Criminal Justice System

By August 12, 2003

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It would be a very bad idea to be arrested in Saudi Arabia. Granted, it's probably not a good idea to be arrested anywhere, but at least in many places you have basic rights that protect you. In Saudi Arabia, however, you would be fortunate to even know the charges against you before you are pressured to "confess."

Brian Whitaker writes in the Guardian:

"Imagine you are arrested and locked up, but you are not told why," one report by Amnesty International begins. "You are not allowed to make a telephone call or contact anyone outside the prison ... the only way to stop them is to sign a confession, which you eventually do. Then you are convicted on the basis of that "confession" after a summary trial that is held in secret. You have no access to a lawyer and you are not offered the opportunity to defend yourself."

There are indications that the Saudi government is trying to move towards reform, but those indications are largely on paper right now. It will only really count when there is hard evidence of real changes in how the criminal "justice" system there operates. That will, however, probably require some changes in many people's basic religious assumptions - and how easy will that be?

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