Saudi Arabia said Saturday it had executed 47 people in a single day, including a dissident Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, who had repeatedly spoken out against the government and the Saudi royal family.
Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr has sparked anger and protests in Shia communities across the region.
Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr,was among 47 people put to death after being convicted of terrorism offences, it said in a statement.
Sheikh Nimr was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Eastern Province in 2011, where a Shia majority have long complained of marginalisation.
Shia-led Iran, Sunni-led Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival, has led the official condemnation of the execution.
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini also issued a statement reacting to the executions, saying Nimr’s case in particular raised “serious concerns regarding freedom of expression and the respect of basic civil and political rights.”
“This case has also the potential of enflaming further the sectarian tensions that already bring so much damage to the entire region, with dangerous consequences,” Mogherini said in the statement.
Human rights group Amnesty International had called the charges against Nimr vague and pronounced his death sentence “appalling.” The group said the case against him was part of a systemic effort by the majority Sunni government to crush dissent among the nation’s Shiite Muslim minority.
At least one protest march was held in Qatif, in Eastern Province, where security has been raised.