Protesters in the Saudi Arabian city of Awamiyah in the oil-rich Eastern Province have staged a rally, demanding the release of prominent Shia scholar, Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr.
People in the kingdom’s restive Eastern Province have once again taken to the streets of Awamiyah to call for freedom of the highly-revered Shia cleric who has publicly spoken against rampant corruption and discrimination commonly practiced by Saudi authorities.
The demonstrators further denounced the ongoing imprisonment of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
The cleric was attacked and arrested in Qatif in July 2012, and has been charged with disturbing the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners.
The final court ruling for the top Saudi opposition figure has not been issued yet, though some reports suggest that rulers in the US-backed Persian Gulf Kingdom may sentence him to 17 years in prison.
It is widely expected that the sentence could trigger a wave of protests in the oil-rich Saudi province.
A Saudi court had earlier sentenced Sheikh Nimr to a death, triggering international outrage, particularly among Shia communities.
There have been numerous demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province since 2011, with the protestors calling for political reform and an end to widespread discrimination.
International human rights organizations have criticized Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.
A court in the Saudi kingdom has also given leading Shia cleric, Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amr, an eight-year jail term and a ten-year travel ban. He has been also barred from delivering religious sermons.