Among those executed was Shia Muslim cleric Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr, who, before his arrest in July of 2012, had led mass protests against the Saudi authorities in the kingdom’s eastern Qatif province. “This move came ignite sectarian strife in the region and the world as well”, he said.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani condemned the execution as “inhuman”, but also called for prosecuting “extremist individuals” for attacking the embassy and the Saudi consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad, state media reported. That “foreign meddling” refers to Iran, where Sheikh Nimr studied for many years.
“We invite all people of conscience to join hands on the tragic loss of Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr who has been executed by dictatorial regime of Saudi Arabia this morning”, Canadians Against Injustice issued.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Saudi envoy in Tehran to protest, while the Saudi Foreign Ministry later said it had summoned Iran’s envoy to the kingdom to protest Iran’s criticism of the execution, saying it represented “blatant interference” in its internal affairs. They also chanted anti-Saudi slogans and set on fire the flags of the United States and Israel.
At least 40 people were arrested on suspicion of taking part in the violent protests, according to Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi.
The building then caught fire and was engulfed in huge big blaze, apparently caused by Molotov cocktails thrown by the rioters.
The crowd also ransacked the embassy by breaking furniture and windows.
After Arab Spring protests erupted in 2011, Saudi Arabia and Iran entered into a fierce proxy war in Syria, where they support opposite sides of the conflict, and in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been bombing Iranian-allied rebels since March.
Among those executed was Adel al-Dhubaiti, who was sentenced for the 2004 shooting that left freelance cameraman Simon Cumbers dead and BBC journalist Frank Gardner critically injured. Protesters had been able to climb up onto the roof of the embassy before they were made to leave, it added.
The demonstrators in Tehran hurled petrol bombs and stormed the Saudi embassy before being cleared out by police.
The executions sparked angry condemnation from Shiite-majority Iran and Iraq, while the European Union similarly expressed concern about possible “dangerous consequences” in a region already fraught with sectarian tensions.
Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was among the 47 people executed by Saudi Arabia.