DUBAI: Defying calls from international human rights bodies, Saudi Arabia Saturday executed prominent Shia Muslim cleric Ayatollah Baqir Nimr al-Nimr along with 47 others.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) and state television reported the executions Saturday, citing the kingdoms Interior Ministry.
Sheikh Nimr, a strong 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 pro-democracy demonstrations at the time.
He was charged with instigating unrest and undermining the kingdoms 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.
Amnesty International also criticized the process of Sheikh Nimrs trial and said it views the charges against the cleric as his right to free speech.
Last October, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also urged Saudi rulers to revoke the clerics death verdict.
The death ruling sparked angry reactions from international rights bodies as well as many Muslim nations, including Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, where people staged large protest rallies and called for the release of Sheikh Nimr as well as all political detainees in the kingdom.
Human rights organizations have lashed out at Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.
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 absolutist monarchy carried out at least 158 executions in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in two decades, according to human rights groups.
Adam Coolge, Middle east researcher for Human Rights Watch, told AP that Saudi Arabia had executed almost twice as many people in 2015 as the year before. The horrific figure is second only to 1995, when the Gulf kingdom executed 192 people.
The Saudi Interior Ministry did not elaborate on the method to execute the convicts, but said they were executed Saturday in 12 cities across the country.
Sheikh Nimrs family shocked
Shocked by the news of his brothers execution, Sheikh Nimrs brother, Mohammad, slammed Riyadhs decision, which he said, was a negative response to the Shia clerics pro-democracy demands, Arabic-language media reported him as saying.
He further expressed hope that the expected reactions to Sheikh Nimrs death would be peaceful.
Sheikh Nimr enjoyed high esteem in his community and within Muslim society in general and no doubt there will be reaction, Mohammed al-Nimr told Reuters, adding, We hope that any reactions would be confined to a peaceful framework Enough bloodshed.
The list of those executed on Saturday does not, however, include Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, the clerics nephew, who has also been sentenced to death over his alleged role in anti-regime protests in 2012, when he was 17 years old.
Many countries and human rights bodies have called for Ali Mohammeds execution to be stopped.
Hundreds of Shia Muslims in Kashmir have rallied in the Shia-dominated areas in protest against the execution. The murder of Shaheed Nimar is Unethical and unislamic. The autocratic countries can’t sustain their rule of tyranny much longer. The extra judicial killing will shake the walls of tyranny very soon. lawyers club exective condemns this brutality.
Saudi Arabias execution of top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr has drawn angry reactions from Muslim bodies worldwide.
On Saturday, Lebanons Supreme Islamic Shia Council condemned Riyadhs execution of Sheikh Nimr as a grave mistake.
The execution of Sheikh Nimr was an execution of reason, moderation and dialogue, the councils Vice President Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan said in a statement.
Some figures in Lebanon have also blasted the Saudi regime for putting the leading Shia figure to death despite international calls for Riyadh to overturn his death ruling.
In a similar move, Pakistans Muslims Unity Assembly also decried the move as a challenge against millions of Muslims worldwide.
In Yemen, the Houthi Ansarullah movement also described Sheikh Nimr as a holy warrior and said the Saudi execution of the top Shia cleric is a flagrant violation of human rights.
Elsewhere in Bahrain, hundreds of people held a protest rally in the capital, Manama, to voice their outrage at the execution of the Shia cleric.
Eyewitnesses said Bahraini security forces used tear gas to disperse demonstrators, who were carrying pictures of the cleric, in the village of Abu-Saiba, west of Manama.
IRAN BLASTS SAUDI
In the initial reaction Iran strongly condemned Saudi Arabias 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 Nimrs 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.
QATIF HANDED OVER TO MILITARY
Following the implementation of the clerics death sentence, all security outposts were evacuated across the country and all police stations shut down amid fears of Shia outrage.
Saudi armoured vehicles were seen heading to the restive city of Qatif in Eastern Province after the execution of Nimr, a reports said.
Hundreds of anti-riot personnel carriers set off for the city on Saturday to quell any potential protest on the part of its Shia population against the execution, according to Lebanons Al Ahd news website.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported Nimrs execution, who was put to death alongside 47 others, earlier in the day, citing the kingdoms Interior Ministry.
The ministry said those executed had been found guilty of involvement in terrorism.
An outspoken critic of Riyadhs policies, Nimr was shot and arrested by the Saudi police in the Qatif region of the kingdoms Shia-dominated Eastern Province in 2012.
He was charged with instigating unrest and undermining the kingdoms security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. He had rejected all the charges as baseless.
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