SHAFAQNA – Protesters in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq have expressed their solidarity with prominent Saudi Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr behind bars in the kingdom.
On Saturday, Saudi protesters once again took to the streets in Eastern Province and called on Riyadh to free the dissident cleric, who has been in prison for over three years.
The protesters in the city of Awamiyah also chanted slogans against the rule of Al Saud dynasty.
This file photo shows a protester holding up a picture of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a rally at the coastal town of Qatif.
Also in Bahrain, a similar solidarity rally was held in the village of Ma’ameer, south of the capital Manama. The demonstrators also carried placards of Sheikh Nimr and expressed solidarity with him.
Iraqi people also staged a pro-Nimr demonstration in the city of Najaf and demanded the release of the Shia cleric from the Saudi custody.
Iraqis hold placards of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a demonstration in southern Iraqi city of Najaf on May 8, 2015.
Nimr was shot during his 2012 arrest and later given a death sentence.
The cleric was attacked and arrested in Qatif in July 2012, and has been charged with disturbing the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners.
A Saudi court had earlier sentenced Sheikh Nimr to death. The verdict has provoked international criticism and series of angry protests.
There have been numerous demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province since 2011, with protesters calling for political reform and an end to widespread discrimination. A number of people have been killed and many have been injured or arrested during the demonstrations.
The monarchy has intensified the repression not only against Shia Muslims, but also against Sunnis and other dissident voices.
International human rights organizations have criticized Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom.
On May 1, Amnesty International criticized Saudi Arabia over its grim human rights record, arguing that widespread violations continue unabated in the oil-rich country even though a new king has taken the helm of the absolute monarchy.
Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.