From Human Rights Watch:
(New York, May 16, 2005) - A court in Riyadh yesterday sentenced three reformers to lengthy prison terms for circulating a petition that called for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch said.
`Ali al-Domaini, Dr. Matruk al-Falih and Dr. Abdullah al-Hamid were sentenced to prison terms of nine, six and seven years respectively for circulating the petition, which they submitted to Crown Prince `Abdullah in January 2004. Using the defendants' petition and other writings as evidence, the judges found that they had overstepped the bounds of criticism by challenging the king's authority, according to press reports.
The hearings against the men have been conducted in camera, and attorneys for the defendants have faced imprisonment and harassment.
Family members of the accused and journalists have also been detained.
I'm not saying we should break relations with the Saudis over this. But I am saying if we don't begin to condemn this stuff--and try to lesson our dependence on oil (and increase CAFE, etc.) so that we don't have to suck up to the royal family--well, then our "realist" policy could eventually look damn dumb, and bite us in the ass. What do you think Saudi dissident types think about the U.S. when the administration just ignores this stuff (as most administrations have)? My guess is that it doesn't increase their love for the U.S. Stay on the current policy and we better hope the House of Saud stays strong. It's like doubling-down your bet. Wouldn't it better to hedge your bets? (How realistic is that? I don't know. But it's worth discussing, especially among those who are better informed than me.)