Some were beheaded, others were shot by firing squad.
The website of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, carried a picture of a Saudi executioner next to notorious Islamic State executioner “Jihadi John”, with the caption “Any differences?”. The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Saudi envoy in Tehran to protest, and parliament speaker Ali Larijani said the execution would prompt “a maelstrom” in Saudi Arabia.
The killing of hundreds of Iranians in the Hajj stampede in Mina last September came after an assault on young Iranians by Saudi police outraged many in Iran, who are ever sensitive about the kingdom’s treatment of the Shiites, and led to Iran suspending flights for pilgrims.
“We have received with much sorrow and regret the news of the martyrdom of a number of our brother believers in the region whose pure blood was shed in an unjust aggression”, the cleric said in a letter addressed to the population of the eastern Saudi region of Qatif where al-Nimr used to preach.
“God will not forgive”.
Mr Khamenei added: “This oppressed cleric did not encourage people to join an armed movement, nor did he engage in secret plotting, and he only voiced public criticism… based on religious fervour”.
Nimr was among the 47 people executed in 12 different regions of Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
Iranian police said that “unruly elements” were arrested for attacking the embassy with petrol bombs and rocks, Reuters reported. Al-Nimr was No. 46, expressionless with a gray beard, his head covered with the red-and-white scarf traditionally worn by men in the Arab Gulf region.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are at an all time low after the execution of a Shiite cleric. According to reports, demonstrators ransacked set the Embassy in Tehran on fire, and crowds broke furniture and smashed windows before being cleared out by police.
Smoke rises from the Saudi embassy in Tehran early Sunday.
Advocacy organization Reprieve, which works against the death penalty worldwide, said two of the four Shiite activists executed were teenagers when they were arrested. The Iranian government said on Sunday that 40 people have been arrested relative to the attack and setting of the fire at the Saudi embassy in Riyadh.
The U.S. State Department said Nimr’s execution “risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced”.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply dismayed” by the state-sanctioned killings.
Those executed were accused of radical ideology, terrorism or criminal plots. Those put to death include Sunnis linked to 2003 terror attacks linked to al-Qaeda.
In Saudi Arabia, Al-Riyadh is adamant that “the homeland’s security, unity and prestige are non-negotiable” and no “incitement of harm or sedition” should be tolerated irrespective of the culprit’s affiliations.
Tehran’s reaction “unveils its real face in support of terrorism which is considered a continuation of its policy aiming to destabilize the security of the region”.
Nimr, 56, was a force behind anti-government protests in eastern Saudi Arabia in 2011. Khalaf Abdelsamad, a prominent Shiite lawmaker, urged the closure of Riyadh’s newly reopened Baghdad embassy and the expulsion of its ambassador.
Moqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shi’ite cleric, called for angry protests.
The Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah issued a statement calling al-Nimr’s execution an “assassination” and an “ugly crime”.
“Saudi Arabia says the executions were to preserve the safety of the kingdom”.
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