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Iran, Saudi step up war of words over executed Shiite cleric

“The crime of executing Sheikh Nimr is part of a criminal pattern by this treacherous family … the Islamic world is expected to cry out and denounce this infamous regime as much as it can”.

“This oppressed scholar had neither invited people to armed movement, nor was involved in covert plots”, the ayatollah tweeted. Nimr al-Nimr, a driving force of 2011 Arab Spring-inspired protests in the country’s east where a Shia majority complains of marginalisation, was among 47 people executed on Saturday after a trial criticised by human rights groups as unfair.

The authorities in Riyadh must now accept that the supporters of the cleric in the region “will take revenge”, warns conservative Hemayat.

“The spilling of their pure blood – including of the late cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, may his soul rest in peace – is an injustice and an aggression”, Sistani said.

The executions have drawn worldwide condemnation, with United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon saying he was “deeply dismayed” by Saudi’s actions.

In London, protesters gathered outside the Saudi embassy.

Tehran’s police chief, Hossein Sajedinia, told ISNA that an unspecified number of “unruly elements” had been arrested for attacking the embassy with petrol bombs and rocks.

“He was very courageous regarding what he said”, Nasrallah said, adding, “He was a reformist man” championing the rights of people in the Arabian Peninsula.

The road where the embassy sits has been renamed as “Sheikh Nimr Street”.

Saudi Arabia has ordered Iranian Ambassador to leave the country with in 24 hours, Capital TV reported.

Treasury minister David Gauke said the executions were “wrong”, but he defended the UK’s close relationship with the Saudi regime.

Iran’s foreign ministry had said last Monday it was willing to talk to Saudi Arabia after months of escalating tensions, but any chance of a rapprochement appeared to be derailed yesterday as officials and clerics lined up to denounce the kingdom.

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran are locked in a bitter rivalry, and support opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

In this context, we reiterate the need for leaders throughout the region to redouble efforts aimed at de-escalating regional tensions, he said.

In Beirut, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called al-Nimr “the martyr, the holy warrior”, while demonstrators marched in Turkey, India and Pakistan.

Sheikh Nimir al-Nimir was executed Saturday along with 46 others, including three other Shiite dissidents and a number of Al Qaeda militants.

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