Saudi authorities have freed 44 Shi'ite protesters who called for an end to human rights violations in the country and protested against Saudi Arabia's intervention in Bahrain, activists said on Wednesday.
Activists in the oil-producing Eastern Province, where Saudi Arabia's minority Shi'ites reside, say the government has detained dozens of Shi'ite protesters over the past four months after they held small demonstrations, demanding more rights.
"Most of them were calling for more human rights... They also protested against Saudi Arabia's involvement in Bahrain," said Fouad Ali, an activist in the Eastern Province.
"They released 44 of them this morning. There are still 28 left in Dammam prison, 10 in Khobar prison and 11 in Dammam (police station)," said Ali, who was involved in the release efforts.
A spokesman at the Interior Ministry said he could not immediately comment.
Saudi Arabia, the world's leading oil exporter and major U.S. ally, is an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate dissent. It has not seen the kind of uprisings that have rocked some other Arab countries over the past few months.
Almost no Saudis answered a Facebook call for protests on March 11, amid a large security presence in key cities.
Saudi Arabia's Shi'ite minority live mostly in Eastern Province, which has much of the country's oil wealth. Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia have long complained of discrimination, a claim the government denies.
ReutersLast Mod: 27 Temmuz 2011, 16:50