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Rights Group Calls on Saudis to Release Activist

A rights group has asked the government of Saudi Arabia to release a rights activist, saying a recent wave of arrests is jeopardizing any chance of reform.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch asked the Saudi interior minister to immediately release Fadhil Makki al-Manasif, who was arrested May 1 for participating in peaceful demonstrations calling for government reform.

His arrest came two days after the government enacted tighter media laws that the Human Rights Watch said further restrict free speech in the kingdom.

Al-Manasif has written about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch says his arrest and others has brought the climate for reform in Saudi Arabia to a freezing point.

The rights group says it has confirmed the arrests of some 140 people since demonstrators began demanding reform two months ago.

Saudi Arabia's interior ministry told Reuters news agency that joining or calling for demonstrations is banned and those violating the ban are dealt with in accordance with Saudi regulations.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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