Saudi protesters voice support for detained Muslim activists
Hundreds of Saudis have held a protest demonstration in east of Saudi Arabia to show their support for detained Shia political activists and to demand their immediate release.
The demonstrators gathered in an open area in the Qatif region following Friday prayers to express their solidarity with several Shia activists, including prominent cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.
The crowd, estimated at about 600-700, carried pictures of the detained cleric.
This is the second Friday in a row that Saudis are gathering in solidarity with Sheikh Nimr and other detained activists on death row.
Last Friday, around 1,000 people staged a protest demonstration in the eastern town of Awamiyah in the Qatif region to call for the release of Shia political activists who are on death row.
On November 26, Amnesty International citing media “close to the Saudi Arabian authorities” said that Sheikh Nimr was among six Shia activists facing looming execution.
The London-based human rights group also noted that the individuals were “clearly convicted in unfair trials.”
Nimr, a cleric highly respected by Saudi Shias, was attacked and arrested in the Qatif region of Eastern Province back in 2012 on charges of undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. The cleric has denied the accusations.
On October 25, the Saudi Supreme Court rejected an appeal against the execution of Nimr and authorized the Saudi Interior Ministry to carry out the sentence. The warrant still needs to be approved by the Saudi king.
Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011, with protesters demanding reforms, freedom of expression, release of political prisoners and an end to widespread discrimination against people of the oil-rich region. Several people have been killed and many others injured or arrested during the rallies.
International rights bodies have criticized Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record, arguing that widespread violations continue unabated in the country.