Saudi Arabia executes 47 including Shia cleric Nimr Al-Nimr over terror charges
The Saudi interior ministry on Saturday announced the execution of 47 people over terrorist charges, including Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr.
Most of the executed were Saudis and involved in a series of attacks carried out by the Al Qaeda from 2003-06, Xinhua news agency reported.
An MP in Iraq’s governing Shia coalition said the death aimed at “provoking sectarian fighting”, while Lebanon’s Shia council called it a “grave mistake”, Reuters reported.
The cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, was responsible for anti-government protests that broke out in 2011. The ministry said it will continue with its approach to fight any threat to the nation and the public.
Nimr’s family said he was found guilty of seeking “foreign meddling” in the kingdom, “disobeying” its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces, BBC reported.
Shia-led Iran – the main regional rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia – previously warned that executing Sheikh Nimr would “cost Saudi Arabia dearly”.
Those put to death include Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks in 2003, reports said.
Of the 47 executed, one was a Chadian national while another was Egyptian. The rest are Saudis.
Protests broke out in early 2011 in the oil-rich Eastern Province in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Sheikh Nimr’s supporters say he supported only peaceful demonstrations and eschewed all violent opposition to the government.
He had been a persistent critic of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni royal family.
His brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, said he hoped any reaction to the execution would be peaceful.
Saudi authorities deny discriminating against Shia and blame Iran for stirring up discontent.
Saudi Arabia carried out more than 150 executions last year, the highest figure recorded by human rights groups for 20 years.