Anti-government protesters in Qatif are calling for human rights reforms, freedom of expression and the release of political prisoners.
They are also calling for the immediate withdrawal of Saudi troops from neighboring Bahrain.
After dispersing the protesters by force, Saudi troops attacked several homes in the city and arrested many people. They also destroyed vehicles parked in the streets.
Saudi Arabia’s east has been the scene of anti-government protests over the past months.
Human Rights Watch says more than 160 dissidents have been arrested since February as part of the Saudi government’s crackdown on anti-government protesters.
“Saudi authorities have arrested over 160 peaceful dissidents in violation of international human rights law since February 2011,” HRW said in a statement last week.
HRW also criticized the European Union and the United States, Saudi Arabia’s allies, for not taking a harder line over Riyadh’s arrest of dissidents.
“As the list of Saudi political prisoners grows longer, the silence of the US and the EU becomes more deafening,” Christoph Wilcke, a senior Middle East researcher at HRW, said in the statement.
A Saudi-based human rights group had earlier reported that Saudi authorities have arrested 100 protesters for taking part or organizing anti-government demonstrations.
Human Rights First Society (HRFS) also revealed that some of the detainees were subject to torture both physically and mentally.
In Saudi Arabia, protest rallies and any public displays of dissent are forbidden and are considered illegal. Senior Wahhabi clerics in the kingdom have also censured opposition demonstrations as “un-Islamic.”