Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Two more death sentences against protesters in Saudi district of Qatif
Demonstration in Qatif after the arrest of Sheikh Nimr in July 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced two more people to death in connection with pro-democracy protests that began three years ago in the Qatif district of eastern Saudi Arabia, the official Saudi Press Agency SPA reported on Tuesday. A third person was jailed for 12 years. Last week the court issued a death sentence against the prominent cleric and pro-rights advocate Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Al-Nimr was a driving force behind the peaceful demonstrations in Qatif.
SPA did not name the accused, who were tried on charges including "participating in protests and marches that caused riots" in the Eastern Province community of Awamiya. They were also accused of "chanting slogans hostile to the state,” the “intent to overthrow the regime," “attacking” security forces, and stealing medical supplies from a pharmacy to treat people injured during protests. The sentences were issued by the Specialized Criminal Court, that Human Rights Watch deemed as “flawed” and repeatedly urged Saudi authorities to abolish.
The Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, where the vast majority of the dictatorship’s oil reserves lie and where the majority of the population is Shi'ite, was one of the regions that had joined the “Arab Spring” in 2011, to demand its political rights, and end the injustice and discrimination its people suffer at the hands of the sectarian and oppressive Saudi regime. The protests started when activist in the province demanded the release of nine prisoners, known as “the forgotten prisoners,” who had been at the time detained for 16 years.
The Saudi regime responded forcefully to the peaceful protests, killing more than 20 people and wounding at least 58 others between 2011 and August 2012. The number of people detained in Saudi prisons exceeded 1042, of whom 280 remain in prison, including 24 children and 5 who were sentenced to death for “using violence against the police.”
Tension rose further in July 2012 when security forces arrested the Nimr, who was shot and wounded.
Earlier this year two other men involved in the protests were sentenced to death, including Ali al-Nimr, the son of Mohammed al-Nimr, who was a minor at the time of the demonstrations.
Several others have received multi-year jail sentences. The Saudi government denies charges of discrimination but according to a 2009 Human Rights Watch report, Shia citizens in Saudi Arabia "face systematic discrimination in religion, education, justice, and employment.