Another Spin Doctor for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, which hired Burson-Marsteller three days following the September 11 terror attacks, has signed up another PR firm to help manage its image in the United States. Qorvis Communications, headed by former Shandwick North America CEO Michael Petruzzello, will do polling and Congressional lobbying. The Saudis have managed to spin themselves as allies in the fight against terrorism, even though much of Osama bin Laden's terror network (including bin Laden himself and 15 of the 19 hijackers who flew the planes on September 11) came from Saudi Arabia and drew their inspiration and funding specifically from Saudi Arabian Wahhabi fundamentalists. The Wahhabi religious movement is the state religion of Saudi Arabia, the ideological underpinnings of the absolute monarchy which governs the country with an iron fist. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have pointed to the country's numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention and physical abuse of prisoners, which security forces commit with the acquiescence of the government. In addition, the government prohibits or restricts freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association and religion.