At least 20 people were arrested over the weekend in the cities of Al Qatif and Hafouf as more than 100 protesters gathered peacefully in each of the two cities. The demands were mainly for the release of prisoners they say are held without trial.
The latest protests were staged mainly for the release of Shiite cleric Tawfiq Al Amir, who was arrested on Friday, March 4, after calling for a constitutional monarchy and a war against corruption.
Guardian co.uk reports, "Public protests have been banned in Saudi Arabia following demonstrations by minority Shia groups."
Digital Journal quotes the interior ministry saying, "Regulations in the kingdom forbid categorically all sorts of demonstrations, marches and sit-ins, as they contradict Islamic Sharia law and the values and traditions of Saudi society."
"The ruling comes after widespread demonstrations in the Middle East – including those that led to the downfall of regimes in Egypt and Tunisia – and two weeks of Shia agitation in Saudi Arabia itself, during which 22 people were arrested," the Guardian report said
"A statement issued by the country's council of senior clerics said: "The council ... affirms that demonstrations are forbidden in this country. The correct way in sharia [law] of realising common interest is by advising, which is what the Prophet Muhammad established", the report added.
Reuters reports, "Saudi Arabia warned potential protesters on Saturday that a ban on marches would be enforced, signaling the small protests by the Shi'ite minority in the oil-producing east would no longer be tolerated."
More than 17,000 have backed a call on Facebook to hold two demonstrations this month, the first one on Friday.
In an apparent move to quell the impending protests, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, upon his return to the country from a month-long medical absence, announced a $37 billion benefits for the citizens.
After the Gulf war in 1991 many clerics and loose alliance of liberals have petitioned King Abdullah to allow elections in the country which for many years has no functioning legislative body.
Political parties are banned in the kingdom as they are deemed not keeping with Islam.