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Saudis’ Plan To Hang Leading Shi’a Cleric Sheikh al-Nimr Could Trigger a Sectarian Bloodbath

May 14, 2015 (EIRNS)—Despite global condemnations and demands for clemency, Riyadh has announced that it will go ahead and hang its leading Shi’a cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, RT reported today. Sheikh al-Nimr’s brother said he was found guilty of seeking "foreign meddling" in the Kingdom, "disobeying" its rulers, and taking up arms against the security forces. The cleric was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Eastern Province in 2011. His arrest two years ago, during which he was shot, triggered days of unrest. Subsequently, he had been sentenced to death last October by Riyadh’s Specialized Criminal Court, which tries terrorism cases.

Activists and relatives say Sheikh al-Nimr, who has a wide following among Shi’as in Eastern Province and other states, supported only peaceful protests and eschewed all violent opposition to the government. In 2011, he told the BBC that he supported "the roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons ... the weapon of the word is stronger than bullets, because authorities will profit from a battle of weapons."

In Iran, interim Friday Prayers leader Seyyed Mohammad Saeedi, in an address to protesters in the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, said yesterday that if Sheikh al-Nimr is executed, the Shi’a people in east of Saudi Arabia will rise against the regime and "set the entire Saudi Kingdom ablaze.. Clerics and scholars held mass sit-ins in Iran’s two holy cities of Qom and Mashhad, reported Iran’s PressTV.

The worldwide condemnation of the forthcoming execution has been largely ignored by Saudi Arabia’s key allies—the United Kingdom and the United States, nations that profess to uphold democratic values. The representative of Bahraini Shi’ite leader Shaykh Ali Salman, told the ABNA news agency that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was dismayed by the Saudi decision to execute Sheikh al-Nimr. Allegedly, Kerry was informed about the Saudi decision during a meeting in Riyadh on May 6. "John Kerry expressed his surprise to President Barack Obama over the decision made by the House of Saud, but by their silence they gave the green light to Saudi Arabia to go ahead with the execution," the representative said, RT reported.