Thousands of Saudis have turned out for the funeral of a number of young political dissents killed at the hands of Saudi regime forces in the kingdom’s oil-rich and Shia-populated Eastern Province, as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against pro-democracy campaigners, Muslim preachers and intellectuals continues unabated in the country.
On Friday, people converged on Qatif, located more than 420 kilometers (260 miles) east of the capital Riyadh, from various regions in Eastern Province to attend the burial.
“Far from us is injustice. Death to Al Saud,” the crowd chanted, as they marched behind the coffins, held shoulder-high by local men.
Back on December 25, Saudi regime forces stormed al-Anoud neighborhood of Dammam, the capital city of Eastern Province, triggering an exchange of gunfire with local residents.
Local sources, requesting anonymity, said two opposition figures were fatally shot in the process.
On December 2, Saudi Arabia's Specialized Criminal Court sentenced five anti-regime dissidents from Eastern Province to death.
The London-based and Arabic-language Nabaa television news network, citing social media activists, reported at the time that the Riyadh-based tribunal passed the verdicts against Mahmoud Issa al-Qallaf, a resident of Ash Shweikah neighborhood in Qatif region, and four others from the town of al-Awamiyah, who were identified as Mohammed Ali al-Aqili, Ahmed Mohammed Abu Abdullah and his brother Amir, and Musa Jaafar al-Samkhan.
Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners, in particular in oil-rich and predominantly Shia Eastern Province.
The province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.
Over the past years, Riyadh has redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.
In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.
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