Shi’ite Muslims and others around the world are outraged after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shi’ite cleric as part of a mass execution of 47 prisoners Saturday.
Nimr al-Nimr was an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family and a key figure in the anti-government protests that broke out in 2011.
Saturday’s executions took place in 12 sites around Saudi Arabia. Most among the 47 were Sunni Muslims convicted of al Qaeda attacks a decade ago, according to Reuters.
Nimr was arrested in 2012 and convicted of inciting sectarian strife, sedition and other charges.
Human rights organization Amnesty International has called Nimr’s trial “flawed” and his death sentence part of a “campaign by the authorities in Saudi Arabia to crush all dissent.”
International rights group Reprieve called Saturday’s executions “appalling.” In addition to Nimr, the group said, there were at least three other dissidents executed. Ali al-Ribh, Mohammad Shioukh and Mohammad Suweimal were also arrested in 2012 following their involvement in anti-government protests, according to Reprieve.
“Alarmingly, the Saudi government is continuing to target those who have called for domestic reform in the kingdom, executing at least four of them today,” Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said in a written statement. “Saudi Arabia’s allies — including the U.S. and UK — must not turn a blind eye to such atrocities and must urgently appeal to the Kingdom to change course.”
A Shi-ite militia in Iraq, backed by Saudi rival Iran, condemned the execution and called on the Iraqi government to reconsider reopening the Saudi embassy that’s been closed since 1990, according to The Associated Press.
Iran itself also condemned the execution.
“The execution of a personality such as Sheikh Nimr who had no means other than speech to pursue his political and religious objectives only shows the depth of imprudence and irresponsibility," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari was quoted as saying in state-run Press TV.