Saudi's King Abdullah has fired the governor of the southern province of Najran for discriminating against the province’s Ismaili Shia population, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.
The New York-based group said King Abdullah dismissed Prince Mishal bin Saud after it issued a report in on the governor's discriminatory treatment against the Ismailis in government employment, education, religious freedom and the justice system.
HRW said since Prince Mishal's appointment in 1996 tension between local authorities and the Ismailis had increased, culminating in a 2001 confrontation between armed Ismaili demonstrators and the police and army in Najran.
The ensuing crackdown incensed the Ismailis, many of whom insist their distinct ethnic and religious identity came under siege, it said.
"Human Rights Watch continues to investigate the treatment of religious minorities and for all Saudis who face restrictions on basic freedoms," the group said in a statement.