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Prominent Saudi clerics arrested ahead of planned protests

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Prominent Saudi clerics arrested ahead of planned protests

Awad al-Qarni and two other Islamist-leaning clerics have been detained by Saudi authorities ahead of a planned anti-government protest

Following the arrests of prominent and outspoken clerics, it is uncertain if protests planned today in Saudi Arabia will take place. Salman al-Awdah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omary were detained over the weekend on suspicion of espionage and ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Dubbed the September 15 Movement, the protests were designed to rouse anti-royal sentiment. This crackdown on Islamist opposition to the conservative kingdom comes in response to rising tensions with Qatar over its alleged support of Islamist militants. Regardless, longstanding repression has historically not prevented political mobilisation, as many Saudis have taken to social media to express their concerns. Sporting 14 million followers, Awdah’s arrest came after tweeting support for mediation in the Gulf dispute.

With both Qatar and Saudi Arabia striving to undermine each other in this ever-deepening feud, these arrests, along with yesterday’s Qatari opposition conference in London, prove just how far these once-brotherly monarchies have diverged.

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John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, gave a briefing at the White House on Friday. Photo: Evan Vucci/Associated Press

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