Amnesty International (AI) has called on Saudi Arabia to release prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who has been detained by Saudi authorities for several weeks.
“It has been a month since his arrest and Amnesty International is not aware of any charges being brought against him. Amnesty calls on the Saudi Arabian authorities to either charge him with a recognizably-criminal offence or release him,” AI's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said on Thursday.
“The Saudi Arabian authorities must also end, what amounts to, pervasive human rights violations against members of the Shia community in the Eastern Province exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” she added.
On July 8, Saudi police arrested al-Nimr after shooting him in the leg and beating him violently in the town of Awamiyah in Eastern Province.
Since then, thousands of people have been holding demonstrations in the oil-rich province, calling for his release.
Since February 2011, Saudi protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the Eastern Province, mainly in the Qatif region and Awamiyah, calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination.
However, the demonstrations turned into protests against the regime of the House of Saud, especially after November 2011 when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in the province.
The Saudi Interior Ministry issued a statement on March 5, 2011, prohibiting “all forms of demonstrations, marches or protests, and calls for them, because that contradicts the principles of the Islamic sharia, the values and traditions of Saudi society, and results in disturbing public order and harming public and private interests.”
In June, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ordered the country’s security forces to go on a state of high alert due to, what he called, a “turbulent situation” in the region.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Saudi regime “routinely represses expression critical of the government.”