Saudi Minister Says Shiite Cleric a ‘Dubious Person,’ SPA Says

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz described dissident Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr as a “dubious person scholarly and mentally,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

“His claims demonstrate a lack of reason,” Prince Ahmed was cited as saying yesterday by the kingdom’s official news service. The prince also said that the state wouldn’t tolerate any threat to its security, the news service reported.

Saudi security forces arrested al-Nimr in the al-Qatif area of the oil-rich Eastern Province, the Saudi Press Agency reported on July 8, citing an Interior Ministry spokesman. Security forces shot and injured al-Nimr during clashes with his supporters in the village of Awwamiya as he tried to escape, it said.

While Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia largely escaped the unrest that spread across the Arab world last year, minority Shiite protesters have clashed with security forces in Awwamiya, al-Qatif and other eastern towns. Two Shiite men were killed in protests after al-Nimr’s arrest and another died about five days later during an attack on a police station in Awwamiya.

“There are groups marred with irregularities,” Prince Ahmed was cited as saying by the Saudi news service. “If the danger is confined to al-Nimr, it is his own business, but if it exceeds the limits, violates others’ rights or bypasses the security of the state, it should be necessary to put an end to such an unacceptable violation.”

Awwamiya, a village north of al-Qatif on the Persian Gulf, was the scene of much larger demonstrations in 2009 after police sought to arrest al-Nimr, who had said in a sermon that Saudi Shiites may be able to seek a state of their own in the future.

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