RIYADH, Jan 22, 2011 (AFP) – A man has died in a Saudi hospital, in the kingdom’s first apparent case of self-immolation like the protest in Tunisia that sparked an uprising, a civil defence spokesman said on Saturday.
Lieutenant Yahya al-Qahtani, a spokesman in the Jizan area bordering Yemen, said the 65-year-old had died in Samtah but declined to confirm the man’s identity or whether he had set himself ablaze in an act of protest.
But Sabq.org, a Saudi news website, said a man in his sixties had died on Friday in Samtah hospital, a day after after setting himself on fire at his home.
The man may have been protesting against obstacles to obtaining nationality in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, it said, noting many people of the southern border area hold the nationality of Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries.
Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia on December 17 sparked an uprising that led to Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia after 23 years in power.
The popular uprising, the first of its kind in the Arab world, has emboldened Arab dissidents and raised fears among the region’s governments that their rule could also be at risk.
Citizens of other Arab countries, including a reported seven in Algeria and five in Egypt, have attempted self-immolation, copying Bouazizi.
Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, has branded the act of setting oneself on fire a “great sin” against Islam, Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Friday.
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