Despite tight security measures, Saudi protesters on Friday answered a call for massive demonstrations in the Eastern Province by the Kingdom’s human rights campaigners.
It was not clear whether it was an isolated protest rally in Qatif or as it had been planned before, anti-government protesters from seven cities in the east joined each other in Qatif.
The protesters also condemned the arbitrary detention of anti-government protesters.
The pro-Western monarchy is concerned protests could open footholds for Shiite powerhouse Iran and has accused foreigners of stoking the protests, which are officially forbidden.
Despite the ban and a warning that security forces will act against them, protesters demanding the release of political prisoners took to the streets for a second day in the eastern city of Qatif.
Several hundred protesters, some wearing masks to avoid being identified, marched after dark asking for “Freedom for prisoners.”
Eyeing rising discontent across the Middle East and North Africa, Saudi authorities are increasingly determined to prevent the unrest from spreading to other cities.
Saudi security forces have deployed around the capital of Riyadh on the eve of planned protests calling for democratic reforms.
Saudi Arabia’s east has been the scene of anti-government protests over the past months and authorities have arrested scores of people, including bloggers and writers, for taking part in anti-government demonstrations.
Saudi protesters in the east are calling for human rights reform, freedom of expression and the release of political prisoners some held without trial for more than 16 years.
Discord is common between authorities and the country’s Shiites, who make up 15 percent of the kingdom’s 23 million citizens. They have long complained of discrimination, saying they are barred from key positions in the military and government and are not given an equal share of the country’s wealth.
They have also urged the immediate withdrawal of Saudi troops from neighboring Bahrain.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 160 dissidents have been arrested since February as part of the Saudi crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Anti-government group the Revolution against Al Saud, which calls for constitutional reform, transparency and accountability, legislative elections as well as the establishment of a government that serves the people, has also urged Saudis to demonstrate in other parts of the country.
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