Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has condemned as “unjust aggression” the Saudi regime’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Ayatollah Sistani expressed regret over Sheikh Nimr’s killing and offered condolences to the families of all those executed unjustly along with the top Shia figure.
“We have received with much sorrow and regret the news of the martyrdom of a number of our brother believers in the region whose pure blood was shed in an unjust aggression,” he said.
In a similar stance, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Saturday decried the move, stating that, “Violating human rights…will have repercussions on the security, stability and the social fabric of the peoples of the region.”
Sadr: Nimr’s killing ‘shameful’
Meanwhile, the leader of Iraq’s Shia Sadr Movement Muqtada al-Sadr, also censured the “Daesh-style” execution of Nimr as “shameful,” calling on the Iraqi government to shut the Saudi embassy in Baghdad, which resumed work on Friday after some 25 years of strained relations between the two sides.
The influential cleric also urged the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to condemn the Saudi move and take proper action in the face of oppression against Muslim minorities.
According to the Saudi Interior Ministry, Sheikh Nimr along with 46 others, who had been found guilty of being involved in “terrorism” and adopting a “Takfiri” ideology, were put to death in 12 different cities across the kingdom.
Saudi authorities even refused to hand over the cleric’s body to his family and buried him at an undisclosed cemetery.
The execution has drawn angry reactions from people of the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where Sheikh Nimr used to preach, prompting Riyadh to dispatch reinforcements to the mainly Shia-populated area.
Shia Muslims around the world have also staged large protest rallies to show their anger at the new Saudi crime, with many governments and prominent human rights groups also condemning the executions and voicing concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.
In the wake of anti-Riyadh demonstrations, Saudi Arabia has beefed up security at its embassies in a number of countries.
The staff of Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Lebanon were advised to stay inside, while the kingdom’s mission in Iraq came under a rocket attack.
An outspoken critic of Riyadh’s policies, Nimr was shot and arrested by the Saudi police in the Qatif region of the kingdom’s Shia-dominated Eastern Province in 2012.
He was charged with instigating unrest and undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. He had rejected all the charges as baseless.
In 2014, a Saudi court sentenced the clergyman to death, provoking widespread global condemnations. The sentence was upheld last March by the appeal court of Saudi Arabia.