Saudi Arabia Beheads And Shoots 47 ‘Terrorists’ In One Day Including Top Shiite Cleric, Triggering Protests Across The World – Daily Mail
Saudi Arabia’s execution of a top Shiite cleric has sparked outrage across the Middle East and around the world as furious protesters clashed with security forces on the streets over the decision to execute Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Shiite leaders from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon have fiercely condemned the execution of al-Nimr, who was a driving force of the protests that broke out in 2011 in the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s east, where the Shiite minority complains of marginalisation.
al-Nimr was condemned as a terrorist by Saudi Arabia and executed alongside 47 other people convicted of ‘terrorism’ today. Widespread demonstrations have erupted in support for al-Nimr with Shia Muslims in from London to India condemning Saudi Arabia for the murder of the cleric.
Hundreds of Shi’ite Muslims marched through the Qatif district of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in protest, which was closely watched by security forces with tensions also mounting on the streets of neighbouring Bahrain.
The Qatif protesters chanted ‘down with the Al Saud’, the name of the ruling Saudi royal family, leading to call in of dozens of Saudi military reinforcements being called into Qatif. Images have emerged on social media of a bus burning, reportedly in Qatif as the protests escalated tonight.
Protesters in Bahrain were met with tear gas as they clashed with security forces in the suburbs while hundreds demonstrated in Iraq’s Shiite holy city of Karbala.
In London, dozens of protesters gathered outside the Saudi embassy to express their anger about the executions.
Amnesty International UK’s Shane Enright told the Press Association that the death penalty was ‘unacceptable in all circumstances’ and it was particularly concerning that a number of ‘peaceful dissidents’ had been killed, including sheikh al-Nimr.
Speaking at the scene of the demonstration, he said a recent Amnesty report concluded that the trial against him was ‘deeply flawed’, adding: ‘We also came to the conclusion that he was jailed solely for expressing his peaceful points of view, protesting peacefully against the regimes.
‘This is an absolute, fundamental, breach of basic human rights,’ Mr Enright said.
al-Nimr’s execution has sparked fierce criticism from Shiite communities in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Indian-controlled Kashmir.
One of the 47 men executed in Saudi Arabia was Adel al-Dhubaiti, the al-Qaeda gunman convicted for the attempted assassination of BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner and the murder of his cameraman Simon Cumbers.
Iran’s Shia leadership said the execution of Nimr ‘would cost dearly’ and an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq called the execution a ‘new crime’ carried out by the Saudi royal family.
It called on the Iraqi government to ‘reconsider the benefit of having a Saudi embassy in Iraq, with a suspicious ambassador and goals.’
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki warned in a statement that the execution of the Shiite cleric ‘will topple the Saudi regime’.
But most of the 47 executed in the kingdom’s biggest mass execution for decades were Sunnis convicted of al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia a decade ago. Four, including Nimr, were Shi’ites accused of shooting policemen.
The executions took place in 12 cities in Saudi Arabia, four prisons using firing squads and the others beheading.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, members of a Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen, praised their ally.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan called the executions a ‘clear message against terrorism and those who call for and incite sedition and unrest to tear apart the society’s unity and threaten social peace in the kingdom’.
Bahrain, which has itself faced unrest from its Shiite majority population, also backed Riyadh in ‘all deterrent and needed measures it takes to confront violence and extremism’.
In the suburbs of the Bahraini capital Manama however, dozens of Shiite youth gathered for small demonstrations to condemn the executions. Clashes quickly escalated between demonstrators and security forces, who released tear gas to disperse the gathering.
A cleric from Bahrain who was at the protest in Iraq’s Karbala, said the world should react to Nimr’s execution. ‘Sheikh Nimr was an icon for Islamic resistance,’ Sheikh Habib al-Jamri told AFP.
‘His words were his weapon. They couldn’t defeat his words so they detained him, tortured him and today executed him in front the world’s eyes, like a challenge to global conscience.’
Bahrain was one of the countries caught in the centre of the Arab Spring in 2011, with the country’s Shiite majority population heavily suppressed during protests against the monarchy. Bahrain has remained a close ally of Saudi, who have been careful to safeguard the country during the Arab Spring.
Shiite protesters in Bahrain in 2011 called for the constitutional reform of the monarchy before security forces heavy handedly clamped down on demonstrations leading to calls for the end of the monarchy.
The protests in Bahrain tonight come after opponents have repeatedly been detained and stripped of their citizenship for speaking out against the Bahraini government and the actions of their ally Saudi Arabia.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) threatened to retaliate against Saudi Arabia for any execution of its members in December.
The list also includes Fares al-Shuwail who has been described by Saudi media outlets as the top religious leader of Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested in August 2004.
The ministry statement said the 47 had been convicted of adopting the radical ‘takfiri’ ideology, joining ‘terrorist organisations’ and implementing various ‘criminal plots’.
The list also includes Sunnis convicted of involvement in Al-Qaeda attacks that killed Saudis and foreigners in the kingdom in 2003 and 2004.
International rights group Reprieve, who works to abolish the death penalty has condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of 47 people, saying two were teenagers when they were detained.
Reprieve says the 47 people whose execution was announced Saturday include four Shiite dissidents.
It says one of the dissidents, Ali al-Ribh, was 18 when he was arrested in 2012, and another, Mohammed al-Shuyokh, was 19.
Both were convicted on charges related to anti-government protests in eastern Saudi Arabia, where the Shiite minority is centered.
Ahead of the announcement their mothers wrote a letter of thanks, published in The Independent today, along with the mothers of other youths sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia.
Reprieve said in a statement that the Saudi government ‘is continuing to target those who have called for domestic reform in the kingdom.’
Quoting the Koran, the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry statement said: ‘The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land.’
While the list does not include Nimr’s nephew, Ali al-Nimr, who was 17 when he was arrested following the protests, concerns are growing for his fate.
His sentencing to death by beheading and crucifixion sparked an international outcry. Official charges against Nimr include attending a protest, using his phone to encourage further support for the demonstrations and possessing a gun, an accusation which the family strongly denies.
British shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn told the Press Association: ‘With the carrying out of this large number of executions there will now be huge international concern about what will happen to Ali Mohammed al-Nimr who is Sheikh al-Nimr’s nephew.
‘The Foreign Secretary has told Parliament that he does not expect Ali Mohammed al-Nimr to be executed but he now needs to seek fresh assurances that he will be reprieved.’
The Sheikh’s brother Mohammed al-Nimr said that the executions came as a ‘big shock’ because ‘we thought the authorities could adopt a political approach to settle matters without bloodshed.’
‘There will be reactions,’ he said, but urged people to ‘adopt peaceful means when expressing their anger.’
He says the family has not yet been asked to pick up the body but that a funeral would be held as soon as possible.
The execution of al-Nimr was expected to escalate tensions in eastern Saudi Arabia, where the Shiite minority is concentrated, and Bahrain, which has seen years of simmering unrest between its Shiite majority and Saudi-allied Sunni monarchy.
Those executed include an Egyptian and a Chadian. The rest were all Saudis.
Executions have increased in the kingdom since King Salman acceded to the throne in January 2015 following the death of king Abdullah.
The number of convicts executed on Saturday is more than half of those executed under Salman’s predecessor in the whole year of 2014, which tallied 87.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia executed 153 people convicted of various crimes, including drug-trafficking.
Authorities in the kingdom set up specialised courts in 2011 to try dozens of Saudis and foreigners accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda or of participating in the wave of attacks that swept the country from 2003, which killed 150 Saudis and foreigners.
The kingdom’s current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef oversaw a crackdown on the militants at the time.
But Nimr was arrested for completely different reasons in 2012.
The interior ministry had described him at the time as an ‘instigator of sedition’ as it announced his arrest in the Shiite village of Awamiya in the east after being wounded in the leg while putting up resistance.