Photo: Anadolu Agency
Photo: Anadolu Agency

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 23 Rabi’ul Awwal 1437/3 January 2016 (MINA) – Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior announced Saturday the execution of 47 people, including a prominent Shia cleric, on terrorism charges, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi authorities executed 45 Saudi nationals, one Egyptian and a Chadian, according to an official statement cited by the agency, Anadolu Agency quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

Among those executed was Shia Muslim cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who led mass protests against Saudi authorities in eastern Qatif province before his arrest in July 2012. He was later convicted of inciting sedition and revolt in a judgment approved by the Supreme Judiciary on Oct. 25.

Among the other executed convicts were terrorists linked to al-Qaeda.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said some were executed by firing squad while others were beheaded.

Following the al-Nimr’s death, Shia Iran warned that Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia would “pay a heavy price” for the killing.

The two countries are fierce regional rivals and are currently involved in backing opposing sides in civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires in Tehran and strongly condemned the execution, according to the Iranian Republic News Agency.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry summoned Iran’s ambassador to Riyadh and issued a diplomatic note in protest at Tehran’s remarks.

Iran’s Fars news agency reported that a group of protesters stormed the Saudi Arabian consulate in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad, smashing windows and tearing down the Saudi flag.

Lebabnon’s Shia Hezbollah condemned al-Nimr’s death as a “huge mistake” and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi expressed “deep sorrow”.

Al-Abadi said the violation of freedom of expression and peaceful opposition would have repercussions for stability and security.

Responding to the criticism, al-Turki condemned “irresponsible statements”. He said the sentences had been carried out according to Islamic Sharia law and denied any outside intervention in the judicial system.

Saudi Arabia’s neighbors the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain voiced support for the executions.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini voiced “strong opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and in particular in cases of mass executions”.

She added: “The specific case of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr raises serious concerns regarding freedom of expression and the respect of basic civil and political rights, to be safeguarded in all cases, also in the framework of the fight against terrorism.”

Mogherini warned the case could lead to “further the sectarian tensions” and “dangerous consequences”.  (T/P010/R04)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)