Iran has strongly condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, denouncing it as deeply irresponsible.
“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,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said Saturday.
“The Saudi government supports terrorists and Takfiri extremists, while talking to its critics at home with the language of execution and suppression,” he said.
Sheikh Nimr’s execution comes while “Takfiri terrorists and extremists have taken away peace and security from regional nations and the world and are threatening the existence of some governments in the region,” said the Iranian official.
“It is clear that the consequences of this abortive and irresponsible policy will befall those behind it and the Saudi government will pay a heavy price for following such policies,” Jaberi Ansari added.
On Saturday, the Saudi Interior Ministry announced that Sheikh Nimr, among a group 47 people, who were convicted of being involved “terrorism” and adopting a “Takfiri” ideology, had been put to death.
The Shia figure’s execution has drawn angry reactions worldwide. Widespread protest rallies are expected to be held around the word to condemn Riyadh, which is already beefing up security in the Shia-dominated Qatif region of Eastern Province, according to reports.
Sheikh Nimr, a critic of the Riyadh regime, was shot by Saudi police and arrested in 2012 in the Qatif region of Shia-dominated Eastern Province, which was the scene of peaceful anti-regime demonstrations at the time.
He was charged with instigating unrest and undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches and defending political prisoners. He had rejected all the charges as baseless.
In 2014, a Saudi court sentenced Sheikh Nimr to death, provoking widespread global condemnations. The sentence was upheld last March by the appeal court of Saudi Arabia.
The new announcement comes a day after a tally by The Associated Press, which was based on reports by Amnesty International, showed Saudi Arabia had carried out 157 executions in 2015, most of which were beheading by sword. This is a record of the most capital punishments conducted in a single year since 1995.
The Saudi kingdom has long been under fire at the international level for its grim human rights record.