JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five young Shiites Sunday to jail terms ranging from three to six years for insulting the kingdom’s flag during protests, an official source said.
They were prosecuted for lowering a flag from a school during demonstrations in Eastern Province and replacing it with a black Shiite banner.
The same source said the five replaced an official plaque on which was written “The Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” with one stating “The Kingdom of Qatif of Tomorrow”.
Demonstrations in Eastern Province, where most of the mainly Sunni kingdom’s 2 million Shiites live, erupted in 2011 alongside a Shiite-led protest movement in neighboring Bahrain.
They took a violent turn in 2012 and clashes between police and protesters have so far killed 24 people, including at least four policemen, according to activists.
Tensions eased later that year when seven senior Shiite dignitaries from Qatif responded favorably to a call from King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz for the creation of a center for dialogue between Sunnis and Shiites.