Demonstrators in Saudi Arabia demand prisoners' release

March 5, 2011 - 0:0

Demonstrators protested in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province on Friday to demand the release of Shia prisoners they feel are being held unjustly.

An outspoken Shia prayer leader who demonstrators say was arrested last Friday was a focal point of the “day of rage” protest, said Ibrahim Al-Mugaiteeb, president of the Human Rights First Society to CNN.
Sheikh Tawfeeq Al-Amer was arrested Friday after a sermon stating that Saudi Arabia should become a constitutional monarchy, Al-Mugaiteeb said.
Protest in oil province
Meanwhile thousands of Saudi Shias staged a protest in Saudi Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Province on Thursday, demanding the release of prisoners they say are being held without trial, witnesses said.
Mostly young men marched through the small town of Awwamiya, near the Shia centre of Qatif on the Gulf coast, Reuters reported.
“Peaceful, peaceful,” the demonstrators shouted, holding up pictures of Shias they say have been long held without trial, while policemen stood by without interfering.
“They demand the release of prisoners, only this,” Zaki al-Saleh, an Shia activist and resident told reporters, although he did not participate in the demonstration.
A group of women also followed the protest.
According to reports, authorities arrested 22 people who participated in Thursday's protest in Qatif.
Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament that usually does not tolerate public dissent.
Saudi Arabia applies an austere Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam and Shias say that, they face restrictions in getting senior government jobs.
Saudi Arabia has cracked down on protests in the past. Shias are a minority in Saudi Arabia. They live primarily in the Eastern Province -- where many major oil companies operate.
The protests come as huge protests by Shias flares in neighboring Bahrain.
Analysts believe protests in Bahrain could spill over into Saudi Arabia's oil fields, located mostly in eastern provinces.