Saudi activists urge visits to jailed cleric

By the Associated Press | July 15, 2012 | 10:37 AM EDT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Saudi Arabian activist group is urging international rights organizations to seek fact-finding visits with a jailed Shiite cleric. His arrest on anti-state charges has sharply escalated tensions in Saudi Arabia's restive eastern region.

Sunday's statement by the Al-Sharaq Human Rights Center expresses concern for Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, claiming he has not been allowed to see lawyers or relatives since his arrest earlier this month.

Saudi officials had no immediate comment.

Authorities say al-Nimr was arrested after a gunbattle in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich eastern province, where security forces have clashed with minority Shiite protesters demanding greater rights from the country's Sunni monarchy.

On Friday, the Interior Ministry said a militant gunman was killed during an attack on a police station in the region.