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First Shia woman on trial in Saudi Arabia over protests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo shows a view of the office of prosecutor general in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Saudi authorities have started legal proceedings against a Shia woman for taking part in protests in the east of the country, where Shias have for long complained about discrimination.

The Okaz daily said on Tuesday, without identifying the woman, that she was on trial over accusations of involvement in protests in the Shia-dominated region of Qatif.

The daily said the woman, aged 43,  was involved in what was described as terrorist activities, an accusation that Saudi authorities have repeatedly used in the past to frame Shia men, especially those attending peaceful protests to demand fair treatment of Shias and a better share in the country’s political system.

Rights activists identified the woman as Naimah Almatrod, a nurse, saying she was totally innocent of anything other than attending protests in Qatif.

Okaz said prosecutors accused the woman during a hearing in Riyadh on Monday of offences including "destabilizing security, negatively affecting the social fabric, wreaking havoc, (and) inciting sectarian sedition."

The video grab shows people protesting in Saudi Arabia's eastern region of Qatif.

Shias mostly live in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich territories in the east. Authorities have convicted more than 200 men over attending protests since they erupted in 2011.

Activists say nearly 30 have been killed in the regime's crackdown. Some have also been put to death, including Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, the top cleric whose execution in January 2015 sparked huge international condemnations. Almatrod is the first woman to go on trial over the protests.

Okaz said the woman is also accused of using social media for incitement against Riyadh. Several other activists are behind bars in Saudi Arabia over their activities online as campaigners urge the regime in Riyadh to release them immediately.

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