DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Saudi court on Wednesday sentenced 14 Shiite citizens to death on charges related to terrorist activities in the predominantly Shiite Eastern Province, a lawyer said.
The lawyer, who works in the province and wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told The Associated Press that of the 24 defendants, the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh ordered one man released.
The court was established in 2008 to try terrorism cases, though it has also increasingly ruled in cases against political activists whose worked is deemed a national security threat.
The Saudi broadcaster Al-Arabiya reported that nine others were given prison terms ranging from three to 15 years for the killing of a policeman, vandalism, armed robbery and shooting at security forces and civilians in the Eastern Province village of al-Awamiya.
The lawyer said the group has been under arrest since 2013 for crimes dating back to a wave of 2011 protests that erupted in the Eastern Province among minority Shiites demanding a greater voice and rights in the Sunni majority country.
On Jan. 2, the kingdom executed 47 people on terrorism charges. The majority of those executed were convicted of being al-Qaida extremists who carried out deadly crimes. Four others were Shiites, including prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed for his role in the 2011 protests, which led to deadly clashes that killed several policemen and protesters.
The execution of al-Nimr sparked outrage among Shiites across the region and protests in Shiite-majority Iran, which led to the severing of diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran.