April 19, 2011 / 9:56 AM / 7 years ago

Saudi Arabia arrests Shi'ite writer after protests

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi authorities have arrested a Shi‘ite Muslim intellectual in the oil-producing eastern province where minority Shi‘ites have staged protests in the strict Sunni kingdom, human rights activists said on Tuesday.

Security forces arrested al-Saeed al-Majid, a Shi‘ite writer, on Sunday at his workplace in Khobar on the Gulf coast, the independent Human Rights First Society said in a statement. Shi‘ite website Rasid.com confirmed the arrest.

“After the arrest, security forces raided his home in Qatif where they confiscated his laptop plus some personal belongings,” Human Rights First said, adding the reason for his arrest was unclear.

Saudi authorities were not immediately available for comment.

Hundreds of Saudi Shi‘ites have staged protests in the eastern province where most of them live to call for the release of prisoners held without trial and political and religious rights, according to Shi‘ite activists.

Shi‘ites in Eastern Province have long complained of discrimination, a charge denied by the government.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and major U.S. ally, is an absolute Sunni Muslim monarchy that tolerates no form of dissent. It has not seen the kind of mass uprisings that have rocked other autocratic Arab elites in the last few months.

The protests over the past few weeks have resulted in police detentions of some demonstrators, but almost no Saudis answered a Facebook call for protests in Sunni cities in the kingdom on March 11, amid a high security presence.

On Wednesday, activists in Eastern Province said the Saudi authorities released 13 Shi‘ite prisoners who were detained after taking part in demonstrations last month. Many others are still in custody, they said.

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