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FRIDAY, 25 APR 2014
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Saudi frees Shiite cleric held in restive east
Agence France Presse
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RIYADH: Saudi authorities released a Shiite cleric in Eastern Province, home to the kingdom's minority Shiites and scene of sporadic anti-government protests, 24 hours after he was held, activists said Wednesday.

The cleric's website alradhy.com also reported that "scholar Sheikh Hussein Radhy was released," without giving further details.

Activists, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that police had arrested Sheikh Radhy at his home in the eastern town of Amran on Monday night.

They said he was likely to have been detained for taking part in protests last week against the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" that sparked a wave of violent demonstrations throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

Interior ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki had told AFP he was "not aware" of the arrest, but added the cleric may have been brought in "just for questioning."

Sheikh Radhy is one of about 70 Saudi Shiite clerics who released a statement addressed to "decision-makers in the Muslim world" demanding they take a clear stance on the anti-Islam film.

Hundreds of Saudis took to the streets in the Shiite-populated east last week in protest over the film, despite a long-standing ban on demonstrations in the kingdom.

Since early 2011, several towns and cities in the east have seen sporadic protests and confrontations between police and Shiites, who allege they are marginalized and number about two million.

Unrest erupted after an outbreak of violence between Shiite pilgrims and religious police in the Muslim holy city of Medina in February 2011.

The protests escalated when the kingdom led a force of Gulf troops into neighboring Bahrain the following month to help crush a Shiite-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy there.

Ten people have been killed in the violence.

Rights groups say more than 600 people, mainly Shiites from the eastern region of Qatif, have been arrested since spring 2011, but most of them have been released.

 
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