Iranian protestors ransack Saudi embassy after cleric's execution

Iranian protestors destroyed parts of the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Saturday after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric, The New York Times reported.

A witness who participated told the Times that protesters broke furniture, smashed windows and set fire to an annex to the embassy.

Police cleared the protestors from the embassy grounds and extinguished the fire, the witness said.

Protestors also tore down flags the Saudi Consulate in the city of Mashhad, according to the Times. More demonstrations were planned for Sunday in Tehran.

Nimr al-Nimr was one of 47 people executed by the Saudi government Saturday. He was an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family and a key figure in the anti-government protests that broke out in 2011.

The Iranian government, Saudi Arabia’s rival in the region, had earlier slammed 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.

The U.S. State Department also weighed in on the executions Saturday afternoon.

“We reaffirm our calls on the government of Saudi Arabia to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all cases,” State spokesman John Kirby said in a written statement. “The United States also urges the government of Saudi Arabia to permit peaceful expression of dissent and to work together with all community leaders to defuse tensions in the wake of these executions. 

“We are particularly concerned that the execution of prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced,” he added. “In this context, we reiterate the need for leaders throughout the region to redouble efforts aimed at de-escalating regional tensions.”