Iran and Iraq’s top Shiite leaders have condemned Sunni Saudi Arabia’s execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimr, warning the killing is an injustice that may have serious consequences.
Nimr was considered a terrorist by Riyadh but hailed in Iran as a champion of the rights of Saudi Arabia’s marginalised Shia Muslim minority.
Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday a decision to break off diplomatic ties with Iran after its embassy in Tehran was attacked, sparking fears for increased tensions across the region.
At a press conference in Riyadh, Jubeir said that during Saturday’s protests in Tehran, the Saudi diplomatic representative there asked for help from the Iranian foreign ministry, but the requests were disregarded three times. “The only thing he did was public criticism”.
The US, UN and European Union all condemned the kingdom’s executions, while warning countries in the region to avoid escalating religious tensions further.
The other convicts were executed for charges related to terrorism. The Obama administration officially said they were aware of reports that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had ordered the closure of Iranian diplomatic missions in the Kingdom and that they believed diplomatic engagement and direct conversations remained essential in working through differences. Saudi Arabia retaliated by summoning the Iranian ambassador in Riyadh to object to Iran’s condemnation.
Several of the protesters gained access to the embassy building and started fires, before eventually being removed from the compound by police late on Saturday night.
In Tehran, large groups of protesters stormed and torched part of the Saudi Arabian embassy, with police intervening hours later.
Demonstrators in Iran, Pakistan, Bahrain, and elsewhere marched in the streets Sunday, chanting and carrying signs, in protest of Saudi Arabia’s execution of a respected Shiite Muslim cleric.
The UK’s Treasury secretary, David Gauke, became the most senior UK figure to react to the execution, claiming al-Nimr’s death was a “worrying development”.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been engaged in a proxy war in Syria and Yemen, supporting opposing sides.
“We are able to have that relationship where we can tell them what we think and clearly it is a worrying development, what we have heard from Saudi Arabia in the last few days”.
Mr Nasrallah noted that the House of Saud established Saudi Arabia through violence and with British support, which continues to this day.
“Most of those executed had been convicted of being involved with Al Qaeda in a wave of deadly attacks in the kingdom a decade ago and included prominent leaders and ideologues”.