AtheistÂ are being defined asÂ Â under a raft of newÂ Â laws, a report fromÂ Â states.
The new laws are accompanied by a series of related royal decrees which appear to criminalize virtually all dissident thought or expression as terrorism.
âSaudi authorities have never tolerated criticism of their policies, but these recent laws and regulations turn almost any critical expression or independent association into crimes of terrorism,â said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.
Regulations from the Interior Ministry cite âterrorismâ provisions to include: âCalling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.â
Those who swear allegiance to any party, organization, current of thought, group or individual inside or outside the kingdom are also included in the provisions.Â Â and variousÂ Â factions are also among those on the list.
The new laws have largely been brought in to combat the growing number of citizens travelling to Syria to take part in the civil war,Â Â
The legislation will address those who return with new found training and ideas about overthrowing the monarchy.
Participation via forms of audio, written, visual media, social media, websites are all included in the definition.
He also cites a 2012 WIN/Gallup International poll which found that almost a quarter of people interviewed in Saudi Arabia described themselves as "not religious" and of those, five per cent declared themselves to be atheists.
Whitaker adds: "Extrapolating that figure on a national scale suggests there around 1.4 million atheist terrorists living in Saudi Arabia."
HRW describes the laws as having âserious flaws, including vague and overly broad provisions that allow authorities to criminalize free expression, and the creation of excessive police powers without judicial oversight.â
While the law cites violence as an essential element only in reference to attacks carried out against Saudis outside the kingdom or aboard Saudi transportation carriers, crucially it states that inside its borders, âterrorismâ can be non-violent.
It can consist of âany actâ intended to, among other things, to âinsult the reputation of the stateâ, âharm public orderâ, or shake the security of societyâ â none of which the law clearly defines.
Stork added: âThese regulations dash any hope that King Abdullah intends to open a space for peaceful dissent or independent groups.â
The HRW report concludes: âProvisions of Saudi Arabiaâs new terrorism regulations that deny any ability to exercise basic rights of peaceful assembly, association and expression greatly exceed any notion of justifiable restrictions.âÂ
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