Authorities in Saudi Arabia executed today a prominent Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, on charges of leading anti-regime marches in the predominant Shia-populated Eastern region of Qatif.
The highly-revered Sheikh was put to death along with 47 others of al-Qaeda suspects and people deemed ‘terrorists’ by the state, including four Shiites.
Among the executed was Faris al-Zahrani, a top Qaeda leader and one of the most wanted suspects in Saudi Arabia.
Supporters of Sheikh al-Nimr furiously took the streets in Qatif chanting anti-Saudi regime slogans and promising to continue the “struggle against the tyranny of Al Saud”
“Sheikh al-Nimr led peaceful protests against the Saudi authorities in order to achieve social equality and justice; not once he shot a bullet against policemen”, one of the supporters said.
Al-Nimr was shot by Saudi police and arrested in 2012 in Qatif region. In 2014, he was sentenced to death on charges of “instigating unrest and undermining the Kingdom’s security and stability”, which were denied by Sheikh al-Nimr as entirely groundless.
Ever since, the calls made by dozens of international right bodies worldwide appealing the Saudi regime to reconsider and nullify the death sentence have received a deaf ear.
The death of al-Nimr drew a run of condemnations and denouncements. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaber Ansari, accused Riyadh of hypocrisy. “The Saudi government supports terrorists and takfiri [radical Sunni] extremists, while executing and suppressing critics inside the country,”
The execution was described as a “grave mistake” by the Supreme Islamic Shia Council in Lebanon and a “flagrant violation of human rights” by Yemen’s Houthi movement.
“The death of Sheikh Nimr will topple Saudi regime”, said Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s former PM.
Elsewhere in Bahrain, demonstrators carrying pictures of the slain Shiite cleric clashed with police forces who shot tear gas at the angry crowds.
The execution is seen by many analysts to further fuel the already-tense sectarian rift between Sunnis and Shiites in the region, mostly sparked by Saudi Arabia’s unceasing support for Salafi Jihadism in Syria to topple president Bashar Assad, backed by Iran and Hezbollah.