The move was condemned by both Iran and Iraq, and clerics across the region, and is likely to escalate tension in the Middle East.
Khamenei’s website carried the comments by the ayatollah, who also criticized the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen against Shiite rebels, as well as the “persecution” of Shiites living in Saudi-allied Bahrain.
Moqtada al-Sadr, an anti-American Shi’ite leader, called for “angry demonstrations” on Monday in Najaf and at the gate of Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone where the Saudi embassy is located.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comments Sunday, a day after Riyadh announced the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Shia cleric al-Nimr was one of 47 executed yesterday, most of whom were convicted al-Qaida jihadists.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said that by condemning the execution, Iran had “revealed its true face represented in support for terrorism”.
Iran’s Shia clerics have used al-Nimr’s death to lash out at Saudi Arabia, which is founded upon an ultraconservative Sunni ideology known as Wahhabism.
Saudi Arabia’s “justice system is independent, just and transparent and does not… operate discreetly as is the case in Iran”, the statement added.
In Tehran, a crowd gathered outside the Saudi embassy and chanted anti-Saudi slogans.
“There are flames inside the embassy… demonstrators were able to get inside but have since been cleared out”, ISNA said.
Its lead online story on the subject quoted a Saudi government official as saying Tehran had “unveiled its real face in support of terrorism”.
Iranian officials said that 40 people have been arrested following the attack.
However the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers told Austria they have no interest in a further of heightening tensions between them, a spokesman for Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said.
Despite the regional focus on Sheikh Nimr, the executions seemed mostly aimed at discouraging jihadism in Saudi Arabia, where dozens have died in the past year in attacks by Sunni militants.
For its part, Saudi Arabia complained to the Iranian envoy in Riyadh about what it called “blatant interference” in its internal affairs.
Sunday’s unrest saw protesters carrying pictures of Nimr march through several suburbs of Manama, among them Jidhafs, Sitra, Duraz and Bilad al-Qadeem. His death also strikes a sensitive chord for Saudi Shiites who claim they are discriminated against by authorities in the kingdom, where many ultraconservatives Sunnis view Shiites as heretics.
In Saudi Arabia’s Qatif region, protests erupted in rejection to al-Nimr’s prosecution, denouncing the rule of the Al-Saud dynasty.
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