Saudi Shiites demonstrate in the eastern province of Qatif on July 8
Saudi Shiites demonstrate in the eastern province of Qatif on July 8. Saudi Shiite clerics and local dignitaries have called for calm and self restraint in the eastern province of the kingdom, just days after two Shiites were killed in clashes with police. © - AFP/File
Saudi Shiites demonstrate in the eastern province of Qatif on July 8
AFP
Last updated: July 11, 2012

Shiite clerics and dignitaries call for calm in Saudi

Saudi Shiite clerics and local dignitaries called on Wednesday for calm and self restraint in the eastern province of the kingdom, just days after two Shiites were killed in clashes with police, a statement said.

"It is necessary to avoid an escalation with unforeseen consequences," said the statement obtained by AFP and signed by several people.

The signatories, including former Judge Abdullah al-Khenizi, also appealed to the authorities and to the general public to exercise "self restraint."

They further asked the authorities to withdraw any armoured vehicles from towns and cities in the mainly Shiite eastern province of Qatif.

On Monday, two protesters were killed in clashes with police in Qatif city following the arrest of a prominent Shiite cleric, raising fears of a new wave of unrest in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

The interior ministry described the detained cleric, Sheikh Nimr Nimr, as an "instigator of sedition."

Amnesty International said in May that seven people had been killed and a number of others injured in clashes between the authorities and protesters in the Shiite-populated region since November.

Nimr's arrest came 10 days after he had said during a speech at a mosque that he was confident his eventual detention or killing would be a "motivation" for protests to reignite in the Eastern Province.

He is considered one of the main proponents of social unrest in the region, where demonstrations first took place in February 2011 after an outbreak of violence between Shiite pilgrims and religious police in the holy city of Medina.

The protests escalated after the kingdom led a force of Gulf troops into neighbouring Bahrain to help crush a month-long Shiite-led uprising against that country's Sunni monarchy.

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