176 people in Saudi’s central Qassim province were arrested on Friday following an unlawful protest in the region.
Saudi Press Agency SPA said those detained, including 15 women, had refused to disperse from a sit-in staged outside the investigation and prosecution bureau in Buraida.
There have been a string of demonstrations in Qassim and Riyadh since two years to demand better treatment of prisoners. Human Rights activists claim that thousands have been detained in the name of security in the kingdom without a fair hearing or held for long periods without trial.
The authorities deny holding political prisoners and say all the security detainees are suspected Islamist militants. They have said more than 5,000 people were detained last year in a crackdown on the militants and most had already been tried.
SPA quoted a police spokesman in the Qassim region as saying those detained on Friday “refused to respond to instructions and attempts by security personnel for more than 12 hours to get them to end their informal gathering”.
The sit-in was “an attempt to rouse public opinion by exploiting the cases of a number of persons convicted or accused of crimes or activities of a deviant group,” the spokesman said. The government insists that it does not mistreat prisoners.
Interior Minister Prince Ahmad had made a statement in September that no further protests about detainees will be tolerated.