Saudi Shi'ites hold new protest in oil province
RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Shi'ites staged another small protest in the kingdom's oil producing Eastern province on Wednesday, defying a ban on demonstrations, witnesses said.
More than 100 mostly young men gathered in the main Shi'ite city of Qatif on the Gulf coast to demand the release of prisoners they say are held without trial, witnesses said.
There was a heavy presence of police in Qatif which is close to Bahrain, scene of large protests by majority Shi'ites against their Sunni rulers.
Shi'ites have staged protests for about two weeks in the east of Saudi Arabia, mainly to demand the release of prisoners.
Saudi Arabia's minority Shi'ites complain of discrimination, saying they often struggle to get senior government jobs and benefits available to other citizens.
The government of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament that usually does not tolerate public dissent, denies these charges.
Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, has escaped protests like those in Egypt, Tunisia and now in Libya, but some dissent has built up as unrest has spread in neighboring Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Oman.
More than 17,000 have backed a call on Facebook to hold two demonstrations this month, the first one on March 11.
(Writing by Ulf Laessing)
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