SAUDI ARABIA. A prominent Shiite cleric and critic of the Saudi government, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was arrested in the Sunni-ruled kingdom's eastern province on Sunday, a Saudi official said.
Interior ministry spokesman Mansur Turki, cited by the official SPA news agency, said "one of the instigators of sedition, Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, was arrested in Al-Awamiya after being wounded while resisting the security forces."
The man was transferred to hospital and is due to be interrogated, the spokesman said.
Nimr's arrest was announced earlier by his brother and a Shiite advocacy group.
"The police carried out an ambush in Al-Awamiya, intercepting my brother's car and arresting him," Mohammed Nimr said.
"On learning the news, I went to the place and found the empty car," he added.
Activists from the Shiite group Justice and Human Rights also confirmed the arrest of Nimr, considered one of the main advocates of demonstrations in the mainly Shiite-populated eastern province.
Most of Saudi Arabia's estimated two million Shiites live in the east, where the vast majority of the OPEC kingpin's huge oil reserves lie. Saudi Shiites complain of marginalisation in the kingdom.
They first took to the streets in protest in February 2011 after an outbreak of violence between Shiite pilgrims and religious police in the holy city of Medina.
The protests escalated after the kingdom led a force of Gulf troops into neighbouring Bahrain to help crush a month-long Shiite-led uprising against the country's Sunni monarchy.
Speaking in November last year, after four Shiites were shot dead in Eastern province, Nimr had demanded the "release of all those detained in the protests, and all prisoners of conscience -- Sunnis and Shiites."
In a speech at the funeral of one of the protesters at the time, Nimr said: "We are determined to demand our legitimate rights by peaceful means."
In a report published in May, Amnesty International said Saudi Arabia has arrested hundreds of Shiites, mainly men, but also children, since March 2011 for taking part in peaceful protests in the east.