By Andrew Hammond
Monday, March 7, 2011; A08
Saudi Arabia's security forces have detained at least 22 minority Shiites who protested last week against discrimination, activists said Sunday, as the kingdom tries to keep the wave of regional unrest outside its borders.
Saudi Shiites have staged small demonstrations in the Eastern Province, which holds much of the oil wealth of the world's top crude exporter. The province is near Bahrain, also the scene of protests in recent weeks by majority Shiites against their Sunni rulers.
"Twenty-two were arrested on Thursday plus four on Friday, so the total is 26. This was all in Qatif," said rights activist Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb, who heads the independent Saudi-based Human Rights First Society.
A Shiite activist in Qatif, the province's main town, said he knew of 22 arrests. Interior Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.
The protests started in Qatif and neighboring Awwamiya and spread to the town of Hofuf on Friday. The protesters mainly demanded the release of prisoners who they say are being held without trial.