At least two political dissidents have been killed in Saudi Arabia when regime forces raided a village in the kingdom’s oil-rich and Shia-populated Eastern Province, as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against pro-democracy campaigners, Muslim preachers and intellectuals continues unabated in the country.
Local sources, requesting anonymity, said security forces stormed into al-Anoud neighborhood of the provincial capital of Dammam, located about 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital Riyadh, on Wednesday afternoon, triggering an exchange of gunfire with local residents.
The sources added that two opposition figures were fatally shot in the process.
On December 2, Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court sentenced five anti-regime dissidents from Eastern Province to death.
The London-based and Arabic-language Nabaa television news network, citing social media activists, reported at the time that the Riyadh-based tribunal passed the verdicts against Mahmoud Issa al-Qallaf, a resident of Ash Shweikah neighborhood in Qatif region, and four others from the town of al-Awamiyah, who were identified as Mohammed Ali al-Aqili, Ahmed Mohammed Abu Abdullah and his brother Amir, and Musa Jaafar al-Samkhan.
On September 12, the rights group Prisoners of Conscience, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page that the Specialized Criminal Court had sentenced Shia cleric and human rights activist Sheikh Mohammed al-Habib to 12 years in prison and imposed a travel ban on him.
Sheikh Habib had been recently released after three years of arbitrary detention.
Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.
Saudi officials have also intensified crackdown in the country’s Eastern Province.
Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.
Back in mid-July, informed sources, requesting anonymity, said that a young Saudi man had died more than a week after being injured by regime forces when they raided a district in the province.
Majid Abdullah al-Adam died ten days after regime forces, armed with heavy weapons and artillery launchers, stormed into the al-Jash district of Qatif onboard armored vehicles.
Over the past years, Riyadh has redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.
In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.