Saudi media says the ‘terrorist cell’ was based in the Shia community of Awamiya
RIYADH: Prosecutors in Saudi Arabia are seeking the death penalty for 16 people for alleged “terrorist” offences in a Shia community in the kingdom’s east, reports said on Thursday.
A total of two dozen people are accused in the case, including three who were on a list of 23 suspects wanted after pro-reform protests that began in early 2011 in eastern Saudi Arabia.
Saudi media said the “terrorist cell” was based in the Shia community of Awamiya.
Most of the Sunni-dominated kingdom’s Shia live in the east, and have complained of marginalisation.
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The interior ministry has reported periodic gun battles and arrests in Awamiya, near Dammam on the Gulf coast, since it issued the list of suspects in January 2012.
Charges against the 16 accused include murder and wounding of security personnel, rebellion, robbery and using grenades, newspapers reported.
The prominent Makkah and Okaz dailies said prosecutors want the bodies of two of the accused publicly displayed on poles after death.
The Berlin-based European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights says seven people have been sentenced to death in connection with Shia unrest since 2011.
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It says three of them were under the age of 18 at the time of their detention, and they have exhausted all legal appeals after being sentenced to death.
Their fate rests with King Salman who, activists say, must give final approval before death sentences are carried out.
The case of one Shia youth, Ali al-Nimr, has raised particular international concern.
During a visit to Riyadh this month, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters he “called for clemency” for Ali al-Nimr.