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Saudis Detain Human Rights Advocate

THE head of Saudi Arabia's first human rights group said Saturday his son, who acted as a spokesman for the group, had been arrested.

The Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights has been denounced by the authorities as illegal.

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Sheik Abdullah al-Masaari said by telephone from Riyadh that his son Muhammad was taken by security agents from his home at 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

The London-based Liberty human rights group said the younger al-Masaari was "detained and taken to an unknown detention center, and all books, papers, documents, correspondence and publications in his house were collected and seized by the security forces."

Sheik Abdullah said that he and another member of the group had been called in by the Interior Ministry on Saturday for questioning concerning the formation of the committee.

The detention of Muhammad al-Masaari was the latest step in a swift government clampdown on the group, apparently seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling royal dynasty and religious establishment. Last week authorities fired group members who held government or university jobs and suspended the licenses of two of them, who are lawyers.

Authorities confiscated the US passport of Mr. al-Masaari's American wife for undisclosed reasons, but she remained free, relatives said. The US Embassy refused comment on the case.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef, in an interview with the London-based Middle East Broadcasting Corp. aired Friday night, said his country respects human rights because of its adherence to Islamic law.

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