Saudi Shi'ites hold small eastern province protest

Sat Feb 19, 2011 11:05am GMT

* Saudi Shi'ites hold small protest, Shi'ites sources say

* Saudi Arabia is worried Bahrain protest could spread

* For news on Middle East unrest, click on [ID:nTOPMEAST]

RIYADH, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Saudi Shi'ites have held a small protest in the kingdom's oil-producing eastern province, close to Gulf Arab neighbour Bahrain where unrest has cost six lives, local Shi'ite sources said on Saturday.

They said a group of Shi'ites staged a protest on Thursday in the town of Awwamiya, near the Saudi Shi'ite centre of Qatif on the Gulf coast, to demand the release of fellow Shi'ites held in prison without trial.

Top OPEC exporter Saudi Arabia fears that unrest in Bahrain, where majority Shi'ites are protesting against the Sunni government, might spread to its Shi'ite minority who mostly live in the eastern province, the source of Saudi oil wealth.

Shi'ite website said protesters gathered in the centre of the small town but stayed silent and did not hold up any posters to avoid provoking the authorities.

Saudi Arabia applies an austere Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam and minority Shi'ites say that, while their situation has improved under reforms launched by King Abdullah, they still face restrictions in landing senior government jobs.   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.