Saudi Arabia Draws Major Criticism for Execution of Cleric Nimr

So far Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon have strongly condemned the execution.

3 min read
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Saudi Arabia executed 47 people on Saturday for terrorism it said, an apparent message to both Sunni Muslim jihadists and Shi’ite anti-government protesters.

The deaths come amid growing war of words between Saudi Arabia and ISIS, which called for attacks in the kingdom.

Most of those executed were convicted of leading or carrying out a series of al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia after 2003. But they also included some members of the Shi’ite minority convicted of attacks on police during protests from 2011-13.

In a statement issued on state television, the Interior ministry named the 47 dead men and listed their crimes. The list included both involvement in attacks and embracing jihadist ideology.


World Leaders Condemn Mass Execution

So far Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon have strongly condemned the execution.
Saudis carry a poster demanding freedom for Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. (Photo: AP)


It was anticipated that executing prominent Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr might raise tensions with Iran.

Expectantly, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts said,

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.

Tehran had warned last year that executing Nimr would “cost Saudi Arabia dearly”.

“I have no doubt that this pure blood will stain the collar of the House of Saud and wipe them from the pages of history,” the Ayatollah added.


Lebanon’s Supreme Islamic Shi’ite Council called the execution a “grave mistake”.

“The execution of Sheikh Nimr was an execution of reason, moderation and dialogue,” the council’s Vice President Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan said in a statement.

Hezbollah too, condemned the execution calling it an “assassination”.

The “real reason” for the execution was “that Sheikh Nimr demanded the squandered rights of an oppressed people,” the group said in a statement, apparently referring to Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority. The statement was also quoted by Hezbollah’s official al Manar television and Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen TV.


Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr was intended to fuel Sunni-Shi’ite strife and “set the region on fire”, a lawmaker from Iraq’s ruling Shi’ite coalition told al-Sumaria TV on Saturday.

This measure taken by the ruling family (of Saudi Arabia) aims at re-igniting the region, provoking sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shi’ites.

Mohammed al-Sayhud, Lawmaker from the Ruling Coalition


Yemen’s Houthi movement mourned the execution, calling Nimr a “holy warrior”.

“The Al Saudi family executed today the holy warrior, the grand cleric Nimr Baqr al-Nimr after a mock trial, a flagrant violation of human rights,” an obituary on the Houthis’ official Al Maseera website said.


What Called for the Mass Execution

So far Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon have strongly condemned the execution.
Saudi Arabia’s state television channel breaks the news of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s execution. (Photo: AP)

The simultaneous execution was the biggest mass execution for such offences in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadist rebels who seized Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979.

There is a huge popular pressure on the government to punish those people. It included all the leaders of al Qaeda, all the ones responsible for shedding blood. It sends a message,

Mustafa Alani, Security Analyst Close to the Interior Ministry

At least three other Shi’ites were executed alongside Nimr. Activists in the Shi’ite district of Qatif have warned of possible protests in response to the executions.

Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry’s statement began with Koranic verses justifying the use of execution. State television showed footage of the aftermath of al Qaeda attacks in the last decade. Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh appeared on television soon after to describe the executions as just.

The executions are Saudi Arabia’s first in 2016. At least 157 people were put to death last year, a big increase from the 90 people killed in 2014.

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