Bahrain

Bahrainis hold protests to support senior Saudi Shia cleric

People in Bahrain have taken to the streets to show solidarity with prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who is facing execution in the kingdom.

Bahrainis staged protest rallies in several villages across the tiny Persian Gulf state on Friday, while police used teargas to disperse the protesters.

The demonstrations come as calls are growing worldwide for the release of Sheikh Nimr, who has been imprisoned by Saudi Arabia for more than three years.

On Thursday, Saudi protesters held a demonstration in the Qatif region in Eastern Province, calling on the Royal family to overturn the death sentence handed to Nimr last year.

In the British capital London, demonstrators held a rally in support of the cleric, who is facing a death sentence for taking part in anti-regime protests in 2011.

The protesters and rights activists called for the immediate release of Sheikh Nimr on Thursday and criticized the UK government for ignoring rights violations in Saudi Arabia.

The protesters have promised to continue their call to action until Nimr is released. Similar protesters have been held in other countries, including Iran and Iraq, in the recent days.

A leading human rights organization in Britain has also joined rights groups worldwide demanding clemency for the dissident cleric.

The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission has asked the United Nation to intervene and prevent the execution.

Nimr was attacked and arrested in Qatif in July 2012, and has been charged with disturbing the country’s security, delivering anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners.

There have been numerous demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province since 2011, with protesters calling for political reform and an end to widespread discrimination. A number of people have been killed and many have been injured or arrested during the demonstrations.

The monarchy has intensified its repression not only against Shia Muslims, but also against Sunnis and other dissident voices.

International human rights organizations have criticized Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom.

On May 1, Amnesty International criticized Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record, arguing that widespread violations continue unabated in the oil-rich country even though a new king has taken the helm of the absolute monarchy.

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