Saudi Arabia has detained at least eight people, mostly intellectuals and writers, two sources including London-based Saudi rights group ALQST said, amid a two-year crackdown on free expression in the kingdom, Reuters reported.
They were taken from their homes in the capital Riyadh and the Red Sea port city of Jeddah last week by plainclothes police but the reason was unclear, said one of the sources.
The Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Riyadh denies having political prisoners, but senior officials have said monitoring activists, and potentially detaining them, is needed to maintain social stability.
Those detained are not frontline activists, the sources said. Some are intellectuals who have published articles or appeared on television while others are entrepreneurs.
In September 2017 the kingdom arrested prominent Islamist clerics, some of whom could now face the death penalty.
An anti-corruption campaign two months later netted top businessmen and senior officials. It was criticised as a power play and shakedown of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman’s potential political rivals.
In mid-2018, more than a dozen women’s rights activists were arrested just as Riyadh lifted a ban on women driving cars. Local media tarred them as traitors, and a court has charged some of them with crimes including contacts with foreign journalists.