Saudi government under pressure over death of protester

By agency reporter
14 Jan 2012

The Saudi Arabian authorities have been urged to launch an independent investigation into the death of a Shi’a protester in the country's Eastern Province.

Issam Muhammad Ali Abu Abdullah, 22, was shot dead and three others were reported to have been wounded at a protest on in the town of Awwamiya on Thursday evening (12 January).

The Ministry of the Interior said that the killing occurred during an exchange of gunfire between the security forces and individuals who had attacked them with Molotov cocktails. Issam Abu Abdullah’s family has called for an independent investigation into his death.

The protest had urged the authorities to release political prisoners and called for an end to discrimination against the Shi’a minority in the kingdom.

The killing was described as “the latest of several disturbing protester deaths in Saudi Arabia in the last couple of months,” by Philip Luther of Amnesty International.

He added, “The need to immediately launch an independent investigation into the death of Issam Abu Abdullah is underlined by the fact that investigations that were announced into previous protester deaths in similar incidents do not appear to have gone anywhere.”

Last November four members of the Shi’a minority were killed by the security forces in three separate incidents in the al-Qatif region, three of them during protests.

Amnesty International say that their sources report that riot police opened fire on the protesters, some of whom were also carrying firearms. The Saudi Ministry of the Interior said security forces had come under fire from “aggressors”. Although investigations were promised, no action appears to have been taken.

Protests are banned in the kingdom. Since last February, when sporadic demonstrations began, the Saudi government has carried out a crackdown that has included the arrest of hundreds of mostly Shi’a Muslims in the restive Eastern Province.

Amnesty reports that more than 300 people who took part in mostly peaceful protests in al-Qatif, al-Ahsa and Awwamiya have been detained, either at demonstrations or shortly afterwards. Most have been released, often after being forced to pledge not to protest again.

Amnesty documented a new wave of repression in the kingdom in a recent report, Saudi Arabia: Repression in the name of security. It drew attention to the crackdown on protesters and reformists on supposed security grounds.

The report described how hundreds of people have been arrested for demonstrating, while the government has drafted an anti-terror law that would effectively criminalise dissent as a "terrorist crime” and further strip away rights from those accused of such offences.

[Ekk/1]

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