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Iran condemns Saudi execution of opposition Shiite cleric

Iraq’s prime minister condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday amid calls from prominent religious and political figures to sever ties with Riyadh and abort a recent rapprochement.

Sheikh Nimr’s execution sparked anger and protests in Shia communities across the region, with protests in Saudi’s Eastern Province as well as in Iran, Bahrain and several other countries.

Al-Nimr, considered a terrorist by Riyadh but hailed in Iran as a champion, was among 47 men killed in the Saudi Arabia’s biggest mass execution for decades.

Prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr was among 47 people executed by Saudi Arabia on Saturday, triggering an angry response from across the Shiite world, including the kingdom’s archenemy, Iran.

Protestors also set fire to the Saudi consulate in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, AFP reported.

The US State Department said Sheikh Nimr’s execution “risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced”.

“The Saudi government supports terrorist movements and takfiri [ideology]”, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeman Hossein Jaber Ansari stated, “but confronts domestic critics with oppression and execution… the Saudi government will pay a high price for following these policies”.

A picture posted on the Iranian Supreme Leader’s website called Saudi Arabia the “white ISIS”, using an acronym for Islamic State, and compared Nimr’s execution to those carried out by the militant group against its opponents and captives.

Executions have soared in Saudi Arabia since King Salman ascended the throne a year ago – 153 people put to death in 2015, almost twice as many as in 2014. Bahrain, an ally of Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, defended the Saudi kingdom.

Sheikh Nimr was a vocal critic of the monarchy.

She said al-Nimr was convicted in an “unfair” trial and that his execution “is only adding to the existing sectarian discord and unrest”. The Saudi grand mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, appeared on television soon after to describe the executions as just.

Saudi Government on Sunday has gave just 24 hours to Iranian Diplomat in Saudi Arabia to leave the country, leearnt from global media.

“In addition, the German government’s human rights envoy, Christoph Straesser, said on Twitter, “#Stop_deathpenalty – every execution is one too many. The extremist group’s branch in Yemen, known as al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, last month threatened violence against Saudi security forces if they executed its fighters.

The ruling Al Saud family has grown increasingly anxious as Middle East turmoil, especially in Syria and Iraq, has boosted Sunni jihadists seeking to bring it down and given room to Iran to spread its influence.

Saudi sources said four of those executed were Shi’ite.

When asked about Nimr, Eshki replied: “In Saudi Arabia, there is no difference between the criminals”.

An official published list included Sunnis convicted of involvement in Al-Qaeda attacks that killed dozens – Saudis and foreigners – in 2003 and 2004.

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