Iran summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires to protest the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
The Saudi interior ministry announced on Saturday January 2 that 47 people had been executed on terrorism charges. Al-Nimr was reportedly among those executed.
Sheikh Nimr was a vocal critic of the Saudi government and a supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Saudi Arabia’s Shia majority Eastern Province in 2011. Saudi Shias have long been challenging their marginalization in the Sunni majority country.
Hossein AmirAbdollahian, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, described the execution of Sheikh Al-Nimr as “Saudi disrespect for the Islamic community, provoking Muslims and stoking regional conflict”.
He went on to speak out against “human rights violations and the systemic violation of Shia and minority rights” in Saudi Arabia, adding that “none of the charges brought against Sheikh Al-Nimr by the Saudi interior ministry were valid.”
BBC reports that at least one protest march was reported in Qatif in Eastern Province, where protesters shouted slogans such as “Down with the al-Saud family”.
Al-Nimr was sentenced to death in Riyadh in 2014 on charges of “sedition”, “disobedience of rulers” and “carrying arms”.