Riyadh (AsiaNews) – Saudi Arabia began the New Year by executing on Saturday 47 people convicted on terrorism charges, including prominent anti-Saudi regime Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the Interior Ministry said in a statement broadcast on state television.
Right after the executions, Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Al-Sheikh appeared on television to describe them as just.
Those executed include 45 Saudis, plus a Chadian and an Egyptian. The most prominent among them was Nimr al-Nimr, an early supporter of the short-lived and violently suppressed Arab Spring that erupted in Saudi Arabia’s eastern region.
The region is predominantly Shia, and Shias have always complained of political and economic marginalisation.
Al-Nimr was arrested two years ago, and sentenced to death last October charged with seeking "foreign meddling" in the kingdom, "disobeying" its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces.
His supporters argue that he had always advocated only peaceful demonstrations.
Shia-led Iran – the main regional rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia – previously warned that executing Sheikh al-Nimr would "cost Saudi Arabia dearly".
The executions announced today are the first of the year. Saudi Arabia carried out more than 150 executions last year.