Thousands of people have held a protest demonstration in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in solidarity with Shia political detainees, particularly Ayatollah Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.
The protest rally was held on the occasion of the death anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on Friday and was attended by people from all walks of life as well as religious figures in the city of Qatif.
Ayatollah Nimr, a cleric highly respected by the Saudi Shias, was arrested in Qatif in July 2012 and was charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and stirring unrest. Nimr has denied the accusations.
On October 25, the Saudi Supreme Court and an appellate court approved the execution of Ayatollah Nimr and authorized the Saudi Interior Ministry to carry out the sentence. The warrant still needs to be approved by the Saudi king.
Six other Shia political detainees, including Nimr’s nephew Ali Mohammad, have been given death penalties. Activists have warned that the Saudi regime is set to execute them along with dozens of terror-related convicts.
People have been holding demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province since February 2011, with protesters demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to widespread discrimination against the people of the oil-rich region.
Several people have been killed and many others injured or arrested during the rallies. International rights bodies, including Amnesty International, have slammed Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record and its repressive policies toward political dissent.