The Saudi government has reportedly decided to deploy thousands of anti-riot police to northeastern Saudi Arabia to intensify its crackdown on mass protests planned next week.
Worried about the mass uprisings against the House of Saud, “Saudi Arabia is drafting in up to 10,000 security forces to the northeastern Muslim Shia provinces,” the daily Telegraph reported on Saturday.
The move came as appeals were made in Facebook for a “Day of Rage” on March 11 in the Kingdom’s eastern sector to demand the release of political prisoners, including Sheikh Tawfiq al-Aamer, a prominent Shia cleric, who was arrested last Sunday.
Saudi security forces are on alert for countering any anti-government rally in the Arab country.
“King Abdullah is also reported to have told neighboring Bahrain that if they do not put down their own ongoing Shia revolt, his own forces will,” the British newspaper said.
Protests and public displays of dissent are forbidden in Saudi Arabia. The government has become increasingly nervous about the protests that have taken the Arab world by storm, toppling the Egyptian and Tunisian presidents, and recently reaching Oman, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya.
On Friday, hundreds of Saudi demonstrators took to the streets in the capital, Riyadh, for the first time, to join anti-government protests in other cities in the country, calling for the release of political prisoners.
After Friday prayers in Riyadh, protesters gathered in front of Al-Rajhi Mosque in the eastern part of the capital , chanting anti-government and anti-corruption slogans.
As police helicopters hovered over the anti-government demonstrators, they chanted; “Thieves, thieves, where is the 200 billion (riyals)?”, “God is great”, and “God will destroy the arrogant and unjust,” along with “peaceful, peaceful,” the Financial Times reported on Friday.
Witnesses say Saudi security forces detained at least three people, who had chanted slogans against the Saudi monarchy.
At the same time, groups of protesters continued their rallies in the towns of al-Hufuf, al-Ahsa, and al-Qatif in the Eastern Province, with demonstrators demanding the release of political prisoners, including a senior Shia cleric.
In al-Hufuf, the peaceful protest rally, which condemned the Saudi government’s detention of Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer, was held following the Friday prayers.
A similar protest, which was held in al-Qatif, was dispersed by Saudi security forces, witnesses said.
The Shia cleric was arrested on February 25 after delivering a sermon, in which he said that Saudi Arabia should become a constitutional monarchy.
Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer has been arrested several times over his calls for giving Shias, a minority in Saudi Arabia, further freedom to exercise their religious rights.Agencies