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About 20,000 Saudi backed a call to hold demonstrations on Friday

100440The Facebook group, which has over 17,000 members, also called for a “Day of Rage” rally on March 11. Tens of thousands of Saudis have already joined the drive. . Saudi intellectuals and rights activists urged King Abdullah in a statement to “transform the absolute monarchy into a constitutional kingdom.”

Earlier, S audi Shi’ites have staged small protests for about two weeks in the kingdom’s east, which holds much of the oil wealth of the world’s top crude exporter. It is also near Bahrain, scene of protests by majority Shi’ites against the Salfi’s rulers. Saudi Shi’ites often complain they struggle to get senior government jobs and other benefits like other citizens.

A loose alliance of liberals, moderate Islamists and Shi’ites have petitioned King Abdullah to allow elections in the kingdom, which has no elected parliament.

Shi’ite protests in Saudi Arabia started in the area of the main city town of Qatif and neighbouring Awwamiya and spread to the town of Hofuf on Friday.  The demands were mainly for the release of prisoners they say are held without trial. T he government of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament that usually does not tolerate public dissent, denies these charges.

Saudi clerics decry protest petitions

As anti-government demonstrators vow to continue their protests in Saudi Arabia, the country’s senior Wahhabi clerics have censured the pro-democracy demonstrations “as un-Islamic.”

In a statement released by state news agency SPA on Sunday, the Council of Senior Scholars said, “reform and advice do not take place through demonstrations and methods that fan sedition.”

The reaction of the 10-man council, headed by the mufti of Saudi Arabia, comes against the backdrop of growing calls on the Internet for massive anti-government protests planned for March 11 and 20 to demand change in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

“The council stresses that demonstrations are prohibited in this country, and that the Islamic way of realizing common interest is by offering advice,” the clerics said.

The Saudi government on Saturday banned all types of rallies and gatherings and declared that security forces were “authorized by law to take all measures needed against those who try to break the law.”

The decision came in the wake of anti-government demonstrations that were held after the Friday prayers in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and other cities.

Hundreds of Saudi protesters took to the streets in Riyadh for the first time, joining other anti-government protests held in a number of cities across the country while chanting anti-government and anti-corruption slogans.

Witnesses say Saudi security forces in Riyadh detained at least three people that had chanted slogans against the Saudi monarchy.

At the same time, groups of protesters continued their rallies in the towns of al-Hufuf, al-Ahsa, and al-Qatif in the Eastern Province, with demonstrators demanding the release of political prisoners.

In a move to intensify its crackdown on the mass protests planned for next week, the Saudi government has also decided to deploy thousands of anti-riot police to northeastern Saudi Arabia.

Protests and any public displays of dissent are forbidden in the Persian Gulf kingdom. The government has become increasingly anxious about the wave of protests that have swept the Arab world, toppling the Egyptian and Tunisian long-term rulers, and recently gaining intensity in states of Oman, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya.

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