2 die in protests over cleric's arrest

July 10, 2012 at 10:24 AM
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, July 10 (UPI) -- Two protesters were killed during rallies in Saudi Arabia over the shooting and capture of a cleric advocating joy in the crown prince's death, activists said.

Activists said Monday the arrest of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nim was disappointing to those who had expressed hope the Sunni monarchy might ease its crackdown under new Interior Minister Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who succeeded his older brother, former Crown Prince and Interior Minister Nayef, considered a hardliner, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Shortly after Crown Prince Nayef's death June 16, a video posted on YouTube showed Nim giving a sermon and calling for "rejoicing" over the prince's death. The Journal said it viewed the video, which generated controversy because the royal family is rarely criticized openly.

Minority Saudi Shiites have alleged discrimination in majority Sunni Saudi Arabia. Last year, six Shiite protesters died during several anti-government protests.

Shiite activist Jafer al-Shayeb said the situation had calmed down, but after the YouTube video and demonstrations, "we will see more protests and violence. It's not in the interest of anyone."

Photos posted online after Nim's capture Sunday in Qatif showed the cleric on a car seat with blood on his robe, the Journal said.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry accused Nim of sedition, the Journal said.

Saudi Arabia "will not tolerate troublemakers who ... abuse the community and their nation," the Interior Ministry statement said.

The ministry said the confrontation and exchange of gunfire occurred when Nim tried to flee.

Activists said security forces cracked down on Sunday's protests and were responsible for the two deaths.

The Interior Ministry acknowledged two deaths, but denied any confrontation "whatsoever."

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