A small protest has occurred in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on 17 February led by local Shia.

According to reports by Reuters, the protest was held to demand the release of Shia prisoners held without trial in the town of Awwamiya, near Qatif on the Gulf coast.

Protesters gathered in the centre of the town, but remained silent and the people taking part did not hold up any placards to avoid provoking a response from the authorities.

After six people have died in neighbouring Bahrain as a result of protests by the island’s Shia population, Saudi Arabia fears the unrest will spread to the kingdom.

In early January, a group of unemployed university graduates held a protest in Riyadh, the first sign that a regional protest movement that started in Tunisia could spread to the usually stable Gulf states.