10/15/2014, 00.00
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Riyadh sentences Shia cleric to death for 2011 riots

Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr was arrested two years ago for causing unrest in the oil-rich, Shia-majority Eastern Province. Shias accuse Sunni authorities of discrimination. During the arrest, police shot him four times in the leg. Days of violent rioting followed.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced to death an influential Shia cleric for "sowing discord" and "undermining national unity".

Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr strongly supported anti-government protests in the country's Eastern Province in 2011, during Saudi Arabia's "Arab Spring". His brother confirmed the news.

Arrested by Saudi authorities two years ago, he was shot by police in the leg four times in disputed circumstances as they detained him after a car chase in Eastern Province's Qatif district.

His arrest prompted days of Shia protests.

However, his family disputed the allegation, claiming that he supported only peaceful protests and eschewed all violent opposition to the government.

The oil-rich Eastern Province is home to a Shia majority that has long complained of marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni Wahhabi royal family.

Protests began there in February 2011 after the start of a pro-democracy uprising in neighbouring Bahrain, which has a Shia majority and a Sunni royal family.

For their part, Saudi authorities deny discriminating against Shia and blamed Iran at the time for stirring up discontent.

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