Saudi executes Shiite cleric, 46 others| MENAFN.COM

Tuesday, 17 May 2022 11:54 GMT

Saudi executes Shiite cleric, 46 others

(MENAFN- Arab Times) Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia executed Saturday a prominent Shiite cleric, who had been behind anti-government protests, drawing angry condemnation from Shiite-majority Iran and Iraq.

The execution of Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other men, including Shiite activists and Sunnis accused of involvement in al-Qaeda killings, was announced by the interior ministry. It prompted calls for demonstrations, but the brother of the 56-year-old cleric called for calm in oil-rich Eastern Province where Shiites complain of marginalisation. "This action will spark anger of (Shiite) youths" in Saudi Arabia, but "we reject violence and clashing with authorities", said Mohammed al-Nimr.

The interior ministry said the 47 men had been convicted of adopting the radical "takfi ri" ideology, joining "terrorist organisations" and implementing various "criminal plots". A list published by the offi cial SPA news agency included Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda attacks that killed Saudis and foreigners in 2003 and 2004.

Some of them had been convicted of taking part in May 2003 attacks on expatriate compounds in Riyadh that killed 35 people, nine of them Americans, the ministry said. Others were involved in attacks the following year on a housing complex in the eastern city of Khobar, in which 22 people were killed, most of them foreigners, and other assaults.

Among them was Fares al-Shuwail, described by Saudi media as al-Qaeda's top religious leader in the kingdom. Notably absent from the list, was Nimr's nephew, Ali. He was arrested at the age of 17 and allegedly tortured during detention before being sentenced to die, sparking fury from rights watchdogs and the United States.

All those executed were Saudis, except for an Egyptian and a Chadian. Some were beheaded with a sword while others were executed by firing squad, said ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki. Executions have soared in the country since King Salman ascended the throne last January, with 153 people put to death in 2015, nearly twice as many as in 2014. Saturday's executions were condemned by Iran and Iraq as well as the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, and drew protest calls. "The Saudi government supports terrorist movements and extremists, but confronts domestic critics with oppression and execution," said Hossein Jaber Ansari, spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry.

It will "pay a high price for following these policies," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying. Turki described Iran's reaction as "irresponsible". "We are completely confident with what we're doing and we believe in it and do not care how others view our procedures, whether on justice or implementation of sentences," he said. Tehran ally Hezbollah said Saudi Arabia's rulers are "global criminals" and denounced Nimr's execution as a "heinous crime". Saudi justice ministry spokesman Mansur al-Qafari said "interference in the kingdom's judiciary is unacceptable".

Rights groups have repeatedly raised concern about the fairness of trials in Saudi Arabia, where murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy are all punishable by death. Iran's Basij student militia, connected to the country's elite Revolutionary Guards, called for a demonstration Sunday outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran. In Saudi ally Bahrain, dozens of youths from the majority Shiite population staged protests to denounce the executions. And prominent Iraqi Shiite lawmaker Khalaf Abdelsamad called for the closure of Riyadh's embassy and urged the government to expel its ambassador. "The execution of Sheikh al-Nimr will have serious consequences and bring about the end of the Al-Saud (royal family's) rule," his office said. Nimr's brother said he had hoped that "wisdom and a political solution" would prevail to spare the cleric's life. And he warned that his execution could trigger "negative reactions" inside and outside Saudi Arabia. "But we hope for peaceful reactions". The Bahraini government and the United Arab Emirates voiced support for the conservative kingdom, saying the executions were necessary to confront extremism. Nimr was arrested in 2012, three years after calling for Eastern Province's Shiitepopulated Qatif and Al-Ihsaa governorates to be separated from Saudi Arabia and united with Bahrain.

The interior ministry had described him at the time of his arrest as an "instigator of sedition". A video on YouTube in 2012 showed Nimr making a speech celebrating the 2012 death of then-interior minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz. "Let the worms eat him," Nimr had said, while also criticising the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where the Shiite community has also complained of marginalisation.

The anti-government protests that erupted in eastern Saudi Arabia five years ago coincided with a Shiite-led protest movement in Bahrain that was later crushed with help from Saudi troops. In Kuwait, a number of lawmakers, including Madhi Al-Hejeri, Sultan Al-Leghaisam and Abdullah Al-Turaiji, defended the absolute right of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to implement the verdicts of its independent judiciary; while condemning the alleged attempt of some countries to interfere in the internal affairs of the Kingdom, reports Al-Seyassah daily.

The lawmakers consider the enforcement of a decision to execute 47 people proven to be involved in terrorist cases a slap on terrorists. They pointed out it is a message that the Kingdom outrightly rejects extremism and violence.

They said the kingdom is keen on upholding Islam and maintaining the stability of its territories, so it decided to confront terrorism through fair verdicts. They emphasized that the stability of the Kingdom reflects positively on the security of Kuwait, in the same manner that tension in the Kingdom negatively affects Kuwaitis. They urged the Kuwaiti government to follow the example of Saudi Arabia in dealing with terrorist cases, indicating the Kuwaiti judiciary is looking into such cases; hence, once it issues the final verdict against those involved in these cases, the country must implement the decision immediately. They added the Kingdom has the right to practice its sovereignty and power on its citizens and apply the law strictly on those who threaten the security, safety and stability of innocent people.

They affirmed the Kuwaiti nation supports the Kingdom and its people in their war against terrorism in order to eliminate this negative phenomenon not only in Saudi Arabia, but also in the entire region. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday the execution of Saudi Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr would have repercussions on regional security.

He said on his certified Facebook account that muffling voices and executing opponents "would lead to nothing but more destruction," expressing "intense shock" upon hearing the news of the execution. "Violating human rights .. leads to repercussions on the security, stability and the social fabric of the peoples of the region," he added. The European Union on Saturday raised serious concerns over Saudi Arabia's execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, warning it could have "dangerous consequences" for a region already fraught with sectarian tensions.

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