Iranian clerics have staged sit-ins in two holy cities to express their solidarity with top cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who is on death row in Saudi Arabia.
Iranian clerics and scholars staged a mass sit-in in the northern-central city of Qom on Wednesday to protest against Saudi Arabia’s plans to execute the prominent Shia cleric. Similar protests were also held in the city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
Nimr was attacked and arrested in the Qatif region, east of Saudi Arabia, in July 2012, and has been charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. Nimr has denies these accusations.
In October 2014, a Saudi court sentenced Sheikh Nimr to death, provoking huge condemnations and criticism in the Middle East and the world.
The clerics attending the sit-in in Qom said Saudi Arabia will pay a heavy price if it executes the religious leader. They warned the execution could trigger "an earthquake" that would lead to the downfall of the Al Saud dynasty.
The protesters also chanted slogans against the Saudi regime and called for the immediate release of Sheikh Nimr.
Senior clerics and scholars also attended the protest which was held in the Feiziyah seminary in downtown Qom, which is home to the holy shrine of the sister of Imam Reza (AS), the eighth Shia imam, and a major center of seminary studies in Iran and the Shia world.
“The path that this resilient and oppressed cleric… has chosen is the path of resistance and steadfastness against the enemies,” Qom’s interim Friday Prayers leader Seyyed Mohammad Saeedi said in an address to the protesters.
Saeedi said if Sheikh Nemr is executed, the Shia people in east of Saudi Arabia will rise against the regime and would “set the entire Saudi kingdom ablaze.”
The Iranian cleric also lashed out at Saudi Arabia for launching continued airstrikes against Yemen and criticized the United Nations for not doing enough to support the “oppressed Yemeni people.”
Prominent clerics and scholars across Iran, including those known as sources of emulation by the Shia people, have unanimously condemned the recent upholding of Nimr’s death sentence by a Saudi court, warning that massive repercussions await the kingdom if the verdict is carried out.