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Saudi regime forces detain activist during raid against Shia-populated Qatif region

This file picture shows Saudi police officers in the capital Riyadh. (Photo by AFP)

Saudi regime forces have reportedly arrested a young man in the kingdom’s Shia-populated and oil-rich Eastern Province as the Riyadh regime presses ahead with its brutal clampdown against members of the religious community.

The London-based and Arabic-language Nabaa television news network, citing local sources, reported that Saudi troops arrested Ali al-Awami after they raided Deira neighborhood in the Umm al-Hamam village of Qatif region, located more than 420 kilometers (260 miles) east of the capital, Riyadh, on Thursday.

The report added that regime military vehicles rolled into Umm al-Hamam on Wednesday morning, and imposed a tight cordon on Deira neighborhood without any reasons.

Last month, security forces besieged Umm al-Hamam for three days, carried out raids and arrested a number of young men there.

Activists said at the time that trumped-up charges were leveled against those arrested as part of the Riyadh regime’s scenarios of abuse, marginalization and discrimination against the Eastern Province population.

Eastern 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 by the regime. Security forces have increased security measures across the province.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the policies of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif in 2012.

Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

Muslim scholars have been executed, women’s rights campaigners – including Loujain al-Hathloul – have been put behind bars and tortured, and freedom of expression, association and belief continue to be denied.

Bin Salman also stands accused of being directly involved in the cruel murder of well-known Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, after he entered the premises to obtain paperwork for a planned marriage with his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz.

Turkish officials say his body was dismembered by the Saudi killers and his remains are yet to be found.

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