Prisoners Can Vote in Upcoming Local Polls

RIYADH – Prisoners will be able to take part in the upcoming municipal elections. Gen. Ali Al-Harithy, director general of prisons, said prisoners would be allowed to vote in the Kingdom’s first nationwide elections due later this year, as the chance – to participate “is open to everyone with no exceptions.

Prisoners will also be able to contest the elections, if they meet the candidacy criteria, Al-Madinah newspaper quoted Al-Harithy as saying. “A prisoner is like every other citizen in terms of rights and duties.

The polls to elect half the members of 178 municipal councils will be held in three stages from November into early 2005. The other members of the councils will be nominated by the government.

Regulations issued on Aug. 9 by the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs stated that all citizens over the age of 21, except military personnel, would be able to vote in the landmark polls.

Recently, the government decided to pro- vide financial support to the families of prisoners serving more than three-year terms.

A national forum convened under the support of Interior Minister Prince Naif late last year called for more efforts to safeguard the rights and interests of prisoners.

A national panel, whose chapters have also been set up in other parts of the Kingdom, is also studying various plans and proposals to help freed prisoners and their families to reintegrate into the mainstream society.

The Saudi government also pardons Saudi and expatriate prisoners from time to time.

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