Saudi Arabia Executes Muslim Cleric Who Led Anti-Government Protests, 46 Others

There has been fierce criticism of Saudi Arabia after it executed 47 people at prisons around the country including a prominent Shia cleric.

Nimr al Nimr was a driving force behind the anti-government protests in the east of the Sunni-ruled country during the Arab Spring in 2011.  There are fears his death may spark fresh unrest among Saudi's Shia minority and in neighbouring Bahrain, where demonstrators have already taken to the streets.

However, the 56-year-old's brother has called for a "peaceful" response to the execution. saying the family did not want to see further bloodshed. The list of those executed did not include al Nimr's nephew, Ali al Nimr, who was 17 when he was arrested in 2012.
Reports he had been sentenced to death sparked global outrage because of his age and the severity of the punishment. In a statement the Interior Ministry said the 47 had been convicted of adopting the radical "takfiri" ideology, joining "terrorist organisations" and implementing various "criminal plots".

All but two - an Egyptian and a Chadian- were Saudi nationals. The executions took place in 12 cities in Saudi Arabia, with four prisons using firing squads and the others beheading
Saudi Arabia's top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al Sheikh, said taking their lives was a "mercy to the prisoners" as it would save them from committing more evil acts.
Criticism of al Nimr's execution has been led by Shia-dominated Iran, Saudi Arabia's main rival in the Middle East.

The Foreign Ministry warned the kingdom would "pay a high price", while a leading Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, predicted the repercussions will "wipe" the Saudi ruling family "from the pages of history".

That view was shared by former Iraqi PM Nouri al Maliki who said in a statement al Nimr's death "will topple the Saudi regime"

The Lebanese militant group Hizbollah called it an "assassination" and the country's Supreme Islamic Shia Council described it as a "grave mistake". Yahoo News