QATIF, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Shi'ites staged protests in two towns in Saudi Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Province on Thursday, demanding the release of prisoners they say are being held without trial.
Demonstrations of about 100 people were seen in the small Gulf coast town of Awwamiya, as well as in the nearby Shi'ite centre of Qatif, demanding the release of those the protesters say were arrested for security reasons and held, in some cases, for more than a decade.
"We want the prisoners free but we also have other demands," said Radi al-Suwaileh, who was in the Qatif march. "We want equality."
They are calling for better access to jobs and to be treated as equals in the ultraconservative kingdom dominated by a rigid form of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism. Shi'ites say that, while their situation has improved under reforms launched by King Abdullah, they still face restrictions in getting senior government jobs.
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