Saudis protest against Bahrain crackdown

April 30, 2011

MANAMA – Crowds of people in Saudi Arabia have taken to the streets to protest against the violent Saudi-backed crackdown on Bahraini anti-government protesters.

Demonstrators in the eastern city of Qatif denounced Riyadh for backing Bahraini forces in the destruction of mosques and holy sites, Press TV reported on Friday.
On Thursday night, Saudi women also held a candle light vigil in Awamiyah in solidarity with the Bahraini people, chanting slogans against Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
The demonstrations came after Riyadh arrested about 30 activists over the past two days for allegedly taking part in rallies held in Qatif.
More than 100 protesters have been in jail for several weeks since they were arrested in March during demonstrations in Qatif and nearby towns held in support of the people of Bahrain.
Last week, about a dozen human rights organizations and 190 intellectuals from the six countries of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council issued a joint statement calling for the release of political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
On March 13, Saudi Arabia deployed military forces in Bahrain upon Manama’s request to quell the nationwide protests.
---------Four men sentenced to death
In another development, on Thursday a Bahraini military court imposed death sentences for four men convicted of killing two policemen during the recent protests, state media said.
Political analysts say the move will most likely increase sectarian strife in the country.
It was only the third time in more than three decades that a death sentence had been imposed on citizens of Bahrain, a U.S. ally which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Reuters reported.
Critics accuse the United States of not responding forcefully enough to Bahrain’s political crackdown due to the tiny nation’s key strategic significance.
The United States issued a measured statement on the death sentences.
Human rights groups and relatives of the condemned men, all Shias, dismissed the proceedings as a farce.
“They were activists in their villages and we think they were targeted because of their activities,” said Nabeel Rajab, the director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. “This will deepen the gap between the ruling elite and the population.”
In Lebanon, Hezbollah condemned the sentences, saying they were part of the “continuous crime committed by the regime in Bahrain against the people of Bahrain… (who) are exposed to severe oppression because of their request for their legitimate rights.”
Amnesty International said Bahrain should not use the death penalty.
Meanwhile thousands of Bahraini people gathered before a revered cleric on Friday denounced death sentences given to protesters involved in pro-democracy protests, Reuters reported.
Germany also urged Bahrain to rescind the death sentences. “This draconian punishment impedes the process of rapprochement and reconciliation in Bahrain,” German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke told reporters at a press conference on Friday.
The island kingdom announced earlier this week that 312 people detained under martial law had been released and about 400 others referred for prosecution.
According to local sources, at least 29 people have been killed and hundreds arrested so far during the Saudi-backed clampdown in Bahrain.