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Saudis rebuff Rice call for rights, democratic reform

[JURIST] US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official website] called for democratic reforms by US allies across the Middle East [text; recorded audio] in a major foreign policy address in Cairo Monday, and publicly called on Saudi Arabia to release "three individuals...imprisoned for peacefully petitioning the government." Rice was referring to Ali al-Demaini, Abdullah al-Hamed and Matruk al-Faleh [Middle East Online report], activists sentenced to six to nine years in May for demanding a constitutional monarchy. The activists had also allegedly questioned the king's role as head of the judiciary. After talks, Saudi Prince Saud parried the request to free the trio by saying that "[the activists] are in the hands of the court. The government cannot interfere until the court action is taken in this regard." AFP has more.

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