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Shia reformist Nimr Bakir al-Nimr persecuted by security forces for criticising government policies

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The following is a 22 March 2009 ANHRI statement:

Saudi Arabia: Security Persecuting Shia Reformist

Cairo 22 March 2009

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) stated that Saudi security forces should stop their police campaign against Shia citizens and immediately release those they have detained for participating in a demonstration in al-Taif province - especially six students, all of whom are under the age of sixteen. ANHRI further stated that Saudi security should stop persecuting Shia reformist Nimr Bakir al-Nimr for his criticism of policies of sectarian discrimination against the Shia in Saudi Arabia and for his call for reform and equality.

Some Shia citizens have staged a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the religious police, commonly known as "The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vices" after one of its members videotaped Shia women practicing religious rituals. Instead of punishing the officer for his irresponsible behaviour, the Saudi police began a large-scale campaign of arrests. This campaign expanded after Sheikh Nimr criticized the Interior Minister for overlooking the rights of the Shia as Saudi citizens. The police began to track Sheikh Nimr with the purpose of detaining him, and attempting to take his children hostage.

ANHRI stated that "the matter is becoming farcical: the Saudi King grants a royal amnesty to detainees for the justice of their cause, while the interior minister who belongs to the same dynasty issues sectarian statements along with a campaign of arrests targeting those calling for reform and equality as if their demands for justice were a crime that requires punishment."

ANHRI further added: "Why did the arrest campaign against Shia citizens of Saudi Arabia escalate only a few days after a delegation of 36 Saudi officials came back from Geneva last February after discussing the general report of the Human Rights Council?"

ANHRI affirmed that demanding equal citizenship rights between Shia and Sunni is a legal and just undertaking and that those making such demands must be respected and not be liable to punishment.

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