A protest has been held in Saudi Arabia with people demanding the immediate release of a prominent cleric and other political prisoners.
People in Saudi Arabia’s eastern city of Awamiyah took to the streets on Monday to condemn the kingdom’s ongoing crackdown on dissent.
The protesters also condemned a death sentence handed down to senior Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, demanding the release of him as well as other Shia activists who are behind bars in Saudi jails.
Nimr, a cleric highly respected by the Saudi Shias, was arrested in 2012 on charges of undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. Nimr has denied the accusations..
The protest came amid reports that Riyadh is planning to execute at least 50 political prisoners, including some notable figures of Saudi Arabia’s Shia community. Those people have mostly been convicted of charges related to terrorism.
Protesters in Awamiyah described as “oppressive” the verdicts handed down to seven members of the Shia community from the city of Qatif, saying they are being punished based on trumped-up charges and confessions that have been extracted under duress.
The protesters also called on the international community to intervene in the cases of prisoners and stop the potential executions. They also said that the world should not remain silent on the plight of Sheikh Nimr and other political prisoners in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has intensified its crackdown on opposition protests despite an outcry from international rights groups. Amnesty International on Saturday expressed concern about reports that Saudi authorities plan to execute dozens of people in a single day.
“Beheading or otherwise executing dozens of people in a single day would mark a dizzying descent to yet another outrageous low for Saudi Arabia, whose authorities have continued to show stone-faced cynicism and even open defiance when authorities and ordinary people around the world question their sordid record on the use of the death penalty,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa James Lynch.
Reports say a number of those listed for the imminent execution are activists from Awamiyah and other cities in the oil-rich Eastern Province, an area which is mostly inhabited by Shia Muslims.