UN rights chief urges Saudis to allow free assembly

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The office of the UN human rights chief on Friday urged Saudi Arabia to exercise restraint and allow free assembly, as protests were planned in the kingdom to press for democratic reform.

"We are concerned about what may happen later today in Saudi Arabia, where the situation is very tense," said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

"As in other similar situations in the Middle East, we're calling for restraint on the part of the authorities -- and the protestors -- but also for people to be allowed to exercise their internationally recognized rights to freedom of assembly and and freedom of expression," he told journalists.

Saudi Arabia staged a massive security operation to deter protesters from a planned a "Day of Rage".

Illegal demonstrations were supposed to start after Muslim Friday prayers but as the mosques emptied there were no immediate signs of rallies.

Three Shiite protesters were shot and wounded in the Eastern Province city of Al-Qateef late Thursday.

A royal official said police responded to shooting from a man in the crowd, who was wounded by return fire and taken into custody.

© 2011 AFP

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