Saudi execution of Shia cleric sparks outrage

London, Jan 2 (IANS) The Iranian government and religious leaders across the Middle East have condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric along with 46 others and warned of repercussions that could bring down the country’s royal family, the media reported on Saturday.

In a serious escalation of religious and diplomatic tensions in the region, councils and clerics in Iran, Yemen and Lebanon said the killing of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr would prompt widespread anger, The Guardian reported.

Nimr was one of 47 people Saudi Arabian executed for terrorism on Friday. The interior ministry said most of those killed were involved in a series of Al Qaeda attacks between 2003 and 2006.

The Saudi grand mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, appeared on television soon after to describe the executions as just.

“The Saudi government supports terrorists and takfiri (radical Sunni) extremists, while executing and suppressing critics inside the country,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaber Ansari said.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a leading Iranian cleric, said repercussions would bring down the Saudi ruling family.

“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 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,” Khatami told state-run Mehr news agency.

In Bahrain, police fired teargas at several dozen people protesting against the cleric’s execution, a witness said. Demonstrators carrying pictures of Nimr faced security forces in a standoff in Abu-Saiba, a Shia village west of the capital, Manama.

The simultaneous execution of 47 people on security grounds was the biggest such event in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadi rebels who seized Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979.

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

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