Last updated: 27 December, 2011

Saudi frees 7 Shiite protesters

Saudi security forces shot and injured three people when they raided three homes in the Shiite village of Al-Awamiya, activists and witnesses said, a day after authorities released seven Shiites held after protests.

Members of the security forces arrived in “dozens” of vehicles before raiding the homes in Al-Awamiya in the Sunni-dominated kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern province, witnesses said.

Residents responded by hurling stones at them, the same sources added.

Activists said that three Shiites, among them a 15-year-old, were shot and injured in the clashes.

Earlier on Tuesday, activists said that authorities had released seven Shiites detained after protests in the Eastern Province earlier this year.

The group attended a “guidance session” by a Shiite cleric before leaving prison, the activists said.

They were arrested during mass pro-democracy protests led by the Shiite majority in neighbouring Bahrain, and denouncing the intervention of Saudi troops there.

The protests shook the kingdom’s Eastern Province from March, with a total of 385 people arrested, of whom around 60 remain in custody, according to activists.

Among those still held are Shiite cleric Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer, human rights activist Fadel al-Munasif and writer Nazir al-Majid.

Saudi Arabia’s estimated two million Shiites mostly live in the Eastern Province and complain of being marginalised in the Sunni-dominated kingdom.

Four Shiites were shot dead last month. The interior ministry said security forces had come under fire from gunmen operating on “foreign orders,” hinting at involvement by Saudi’s arch rival Iran.

The ministry said two policemen were wounded in the November clashes.