Shiites Protest Saudi Execution of Cleric


Time: 8:09 p.m. CEST

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran and gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the kingdom, the New York Times publishes on Sunday. The Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the demand after harsh voices in Iran after the execution of the Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. The Times says, “the cutting of diplomatic ties came” amid hopes that limited cooperation between two powers could drive toward end the civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

The United States State Department appealed to the Iranian government to protect the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Tehran and called both Saudi Arabia and Iran “to avoid escalating regional Sunni-Shiite” uproar. Angry demonstrations took place across Iran, including Tehran, where protesters broke into the Saudi Embassy, ransacked it and set it a blaze, as the Washington Post reports. The demonstrators entered at the Saudi Embassy early on Sunday to protest the execution of prominent Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, the New York Times writes. A spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said to reporters, the U.S. supports the right to peaceful protest, but “we condemn in the strongest terms any attacks on diplomatic properties.”

The U.S. called both Iran and Saudi Arabia to abstain from “any actions that could further heighten tensions.” The recent regional violence broke after Saudi Arabia executed 47 people in a single day. The Shiite cleric al-Nimr was among the executed, after it was convicted of terrorism charges. The execution in Saudi Arabia was the biggest mas execution for security offences since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadis rebels after seizing Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979.

Aside the killing of al-Nimr, Saudi Arabia executed three other Shiite dissidents, while others were number of al-Qaida militants, as Reuters writes. According to this news agency report, the four Shiites were convicted of “involvement in shootings and petrol bomb attacks that killed police officers during anti-government protests from 2011-13, something their families denied.” Human-rights groups have consistently attacked judicial process as unfair, with confessions secured under torture and that defendant in court did not have access to lawyers. But, as Reuters adds, Riyadh refutes torture and says, “its judiciary is independent.”

The killing of al-Nimr provoked strong reactions from European Union, the United Nations. The leader of Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah condemned Saudi Arabia for the execution of the Shiite cleric. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned the execution of opposition Shiite cleric. Rouhani called the attack to the Embassy “unjustifiable.” Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei commented on Sunday through his website, while on his Twitter account said: “Doubtlessly, unfairly spilled blood of oppressed martyr (hashtag) SheikNimr will affect rapidly and divine revenge will seize Saudi politicians.” Its website had a picture of “a Saudi executioner ‘Jihadi John,’ with the caption ‘Any differences?’” Reuters explains, Saudi Arabia summoned the ambassador of Iran.

After the execution, as Reuters reports, Islamic State group “urged its supporters to attack Saudi soldiers and police in revenge,” as the SITE monitoring group reports, “in a message on Telegram, an encrypted messaging service used by the group’s backers.”

In plain turmoil after the mass execution, the Times writes, the execution happened when of increased attacks in Saudi Arabia by the Islamic State militants and increased competition between the Sunni monarchy and Shiite Iran, reflected in the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

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