Brother of Executed Shiite Cleric Hopes Any Reaction Will Be Peaceful


JANUARY 02, 2016

Dubai.  The brother of prominent Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr said on Saturday the family was shocked by news of his brother's execution but hoped that any reaction would be peaceful.

Nimr and six other Saudi Shiites, including Mohammed al-Nimr's son, Ali, were sentenced to die and to have their bodies publicly displayed, the most severe penalty available to judges in the strict Sunni majority kingdom.

They were among 47 people put to death by Saudi Arabia on Saturday for terrorism, an apparent message to both Sunni Muslim jihadists and Shiite anti-government protesters that the conservative Islamic kingdom will brook no violent dissent.

Mohammed al-Nimr said residents of Saudi Arabia's eastern al-Qatif region, where most of the country's mainly Shiite Muslim minority live, were alarmed by the news.

"We were expecting and hoping that the voice of moderation and political settlements would prevail," Mohammed al-Nimr told Reuters by telephone. "We were shocked by this harsh news.

"Sheikh Nimr enjoyed high esteem in his community and within Muslim society in general and no doubt there will be reaction. We hope that any reactions would be confined to a peaceful framework," he said. "Enough bloodshed."

Nimr had long been regarded as the most vocal Shiite leader in Qatif, willing to publicly criticize the Al Saud ruling family and call directly for elections. But he was careful to avoid calling for violence, analysts say.

Mohammed al-Nimr said his family hoped the authorities would hand over the body of Sheikh al-Nimr for a speedy burial.

"There is nothing left between us and the authorities except this pure body. We hope it would be handed over as soon as possible."

Iran's outrage

Reactions coming from Iran, a Shiite majority country, have been largely scathing, with its foreign ministry accusing Saudi Arabia on Saturday of supporting terrorism and executing its opponents.

"The Saudi government supports terrorists and takfiri [radical Sunni] extremists, while executing and suppressing critics inside the country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

Meanwhile, the leader of a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi militia called the execution of al-Nimr a "crime," according to al-Ahd TV.

"The execution of Sheikh al-Nimr is a crime that is added to the criminal record of Al Saud," Kataib Hezbollah's leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes said.

Al-Ahd is owned by another Iranian backed group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq.