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Saudi urged to free 100 Shiite protesters
Rights group in Saudi Arabia urges the government to release protesters who were arrested during clashes with police last week in the kingdom's east
AFP , Thursday 24 Mar 2011
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A Saudi-based rights group has urged the oil-rich kingdom to release 100 Shiite protesters it said were arrested in its Eastern Province last week, some of whom it alleged have been tortured.

"During the peaceful protests last week in the Eastern Province, in the Shiite-populated areas of Safwa, Qatif, its villages and Al-Hassa, 100 protesters were arrested," Human Rights First Society said late Wednesday.

HRFS, in a statement, called for "the immediate release of these peaceful demonstrators and a full investigation into the accusations of physical and psychological torture to which some of the detainees were subjected."

Ten people were injured in 18 March clashes between protesters and police in Omran, a city in the Eastern Province which is home to a vast majority of Saudi Arabia's estimated two million Shiites, according to a witness.

At least 2,500 people protested in Awamiya and about 1,000 each in Safwa and Al-Rabeeya, all near Qatif City where Shiites have been holding daily demonstrations, witnesses told AFP by telephone.

Protesters have shouted slogans in support of Bahraini Shiites, the target of a police crackdown, and demanding the release of nine Shiites jailed without trial in Saudi Arabia since 1996.

Saudi-led Gulf forces of a joint Peninsula Shield contingent last week rolled into Shiite-majority Bahrain, which is ruled by a Sunni royal family and has been rocked by Shiite-led demonstrations.



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