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Saudi court gives death sentence to Shia dissident

A court in Saudi Arabia has handed down death sentence to a Shia anti-regime activist as Riyadh regime presses ahead with its heavy-handed clampdown on members of the religious community in addition to political dissidents and pro-democracy campaigners.

The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh issued the ruling against Haider Al Lif on Friday, Arabic-language Ahrar television network reported.

Saudi rights activists have condemned the verdict, arguing that Saudi authorities had earlier decided to overturn the decision against the Shia activist.

The development came only a day after the same Saudi court sentenced distinguished Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Hussein al-Radhi to 13 years in prison .

Sheikh Radhi was arrested on March 21, 2016, after being surrounded by a group of Saudi police officers and militiamen in the middle of a street in the city of al-Umran.

The prominent Shia clergyman had earlier been subjected to various forms of harassment and frequently summoned for questioning over his Friday sermons, which touched on a wide array of regional and domestic issues, including the execution of well-known Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr in early January 2016.

Sheikh al-Radhi has also condemned Saudi’s military aggression against Yemen and called for the withdrawal of Saudi forces from the impoverished conflict-ridden country.

Since February 2011, Saudi Arabia has stepped up security measures in the Shia-dominated Eastern Province, which has been rocked by anti-regime demonstrations, with protesters demanding free speech, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the Saudi regime. Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism law so as to repress pro-democracy movements.

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