The Saudi Interior Minister Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz has strongly attacked a Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose recent arrest had caused unrest in the eastern part of the country, calling him "mentally unstable," in comments published yesterday by the SPA agency.
Sheikh Nimr, known for his harsh criticism against the regime, "is an instigator of sedition (...) whose theological knowledge and mental abilities are questionable," said the minister. Seeking to refute claims of discrimination faced by the Shiite minority, particularly in employment, he said that the wife of Sheikh Nimr, was "an employee of the immigration department", and was supported by the authorities for medical treatment in the U.S. while her children were receiving scholarships abroad. Sheikh Nimr and his family enjoy social benefits "like other Saudis," assured the minister.
The arrest on July 8 of Sheikh Nimr was followed by clashes in the East of Saudi Arabia. Two Shiite demonstrators were killed. The protests are "unacceptable" because they are "undermining state security", warned the Minister of the Interior.
The Eastern oil-rich region of Saudi Arabia includes two million Saudi Shiites. It was shaken by sporadic unrest since March 2011. The unrest turned violent from the fall of 2011 as ten people have been killed since then. The demonstrators had protested against the military assistance by Saudi Arabia to the ruling Sunni dynasty in Bahrain to quell demonstrations by Shiites.