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Major General Mansour Al-Turki, a security spokesman from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior, holds a news conference on the executions of 47 people. -Reuters Major General Mansour Al-Turki, a security spokesman from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior, holds a news conference on the executions of 47 people. -Reuters

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shia Muslim cleric alongside dozens of Al Qaeda members on Saturday.

Most of the 47 executed were convicted of Al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia a decade ago, but four, including prominent cleric Nimr al-Nimr, were Shia Muslims accused of shooting policemen during anti-government protests in recent years.

The executions took place in 12 cities in Saudi Arabia, four prisons using firing squads and the others beheading. The bodies were then hanged from gibbets in the most severe form of punishment available in the kingdom's Sharia Islamic law.

Riyadh's main regional rival Iran immediately reacted with vigorous condemnation of the execution of Nimr, and Saudi police raised security in a province where the Shias are a majority in case of protests, residents said.

The executions seemed mostly aimed at discouraging Saudis from extremism after bombings and shootings by Sunni militants in Saudi Arabia over the past year killed dozens and the militant Islamic State (IS) group called on followers in the kingdom to stage attacks.

The simultaneous execution of 47 people on security grounds was the biggest mass execution for such offences in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 extremist rebels who seized Mecca's Grand Mosque in 1979.

The 43 Sunni extremists executed included several prominent Al Qaeda figures, including those convicted of responsibility for attacks on Western compounds, government buildings and diplomatic missions that killed hundreds from 2003-06.

However, the execution of four Shias, including Nimr, who were convicted of shooting and petrol bomb attacks that killed several policemen during anti-government protests in Qatif district from 2011-13, provoked an immediate response abroad.

A top Iranian cleric warned the kingdom's Al Saud ruling family would be “wiped from the pages of history”, Yemen's Houthi group described Nimr as a “holy warrior” and Lebanese militia Hezbollah said Riyadh had made “a grave mistake”.

Saudi police increased security in Qatif district of Eastern Province, residents said, a Shia majority area and site of the protests from 2011-13 in which several police were shot dead as well as over 20 local demonstrators.

Bahrain police fired tear gas at several dozen people protesting against the execution of Nimr, a witness said.

Sending a message

In a statement issued on state television and other official media, the Interior Ministry named the dead men and listed crimes that included both involvement in attacks and embracing extremist ideology.

Mustafa Alani, a security analyst close to the Interior Ministry, commented: “There is a huge popular pressure on the government to punish those people. It included all the leaders of Al Qaeda, all the ones responsible for shedding blood. It sends a message.”

Analysts have speculated that the execution of the four Shias was partly to demonstrate to Saudi Arabia's majority Sunni Muslims that the government did not differentiate between political violence committed by members of the two sects.

In this file photo, a Saudi anti-government protester carries a poster with the image of jailed Shia cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr during the funeral of three Shia Muslims allegedly killed by Saudi security forces in the eastern town of al-Awamiya. -AP/File In this file photo, a Saudi anti-government protester carries a poster with the image of jailed Shia cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr during the funeral of three Shia Muslims allegedly killed by Saudi security forces in the eastern town of al-Awamiya. -AP/File

However, human rights groups have consistently attacked the kingdom's judicial process as unfair, pointing to accusations that confessions have been secured under torture and that defendents in court have been denied access to lawyers.

Riyadh denies practising torture, rejects criticism of its legal process and says its judiciary is independent.

The conservative Islamic kingdom, which usually executes people by public beheading, detained thousands of militant extremists after the 2003-06 Al Qaeda attacks, and has convicted hundreds of them.

However, it also detained hundreds of members of its Shia minority after protests from 2011-13, during which several policemen were killed in shooting and petrol bomb attacks.

Activists angry

At least three other Shias were executed alongside Nimr, including Ali al-Rubh, who relatives said was a juvenile at the time of the crime for which he was convicted, Mohammed al-Shayoukh and Mohammed Suwaymil.

Activists in the Shia district of Qatif have warned of possible protests in response to the executions. However, Nimr's brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, said he hoped any response would be peaceful.

“My mobile is getting non-stop messages from friends, all shocked and angry. We know four of the names on the list. The fear is for the children among those detained,” an activist in Qatif told Reuters.

The Interior Ministry statement began with Quranic verses justifying the use of execution and state television showed footage of the aftermath of Al Qaeda attacks in the last decade. Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh appeared on television soon after to describe the executions as just.

The executions are Saudi Arabia's first in 2016. At least 157 people were put to death last year, a big increase from the 90 people killed in 2014.

Amnesty International says the number of executions in Saudi Arabia this year is the highest for two decades, since 192 people were put to death in 1995.

The toll has rarely exceeded 90 annually in recent years, it said.

Reasons for the surge are unclear.

Over the past few weeks, however, there has been a marked drop in executions, all of which are reported by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi executions are usually carried out by beheading with a sword.

Rights experts have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom, where the interior ministry says the death penalty is a deterrent to crime.

Amnesty says Saudi Arabia had the world's third-highest number of executions last year, after China and Iran.

Under the kingdom's strict Islamic legal code, murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy are all punishable by death.

Comments (91) Closed

Kamal Pasha Jan 02, 2016 01:44pm

On the one hand, Saudis are executing terrorists and on the other hand they are supporting many militants around the world.

M.Saeed Jan 02, 2016 01:56pm

While executions of people challenging the law of land, knowing well the punishment, it is the mode of execution that is much more disturbing to the common man than those who are already prepared to face it.

Ziaurrehman Jan 02, 2016 01:58pm

Their country their laws..... how can we pakistanis go their in herds, earn money and get an audacity to criticize their laws?

Aroon Jan 02, 2016 02:12pm

@Ziaurrehman You are right. This applies to all countries including the Western countries. Their country their law.

M.Saeed Jan 02, 2016 02:13pm

What I want from my people, it is my way to get. What business all the king's horses have to tread in it?

anees from zaida Jan 02, 2016 02:23pm

It is a slap in the face of all those who say that Saudi Arabia doesn't behead its own citizens. Every single one here was a Saudi.

Asim Iqbal Jan 02, 2016 02:30pm

Killers of innocent people deserve this kind of treatment.

Nasir Jan 02, 2016 02:42pm

@Kamal Pasha - unfortunately Pakistan has been doing the same for many decades

Ebrahim Jan 02, 2016 02:54pm

Good work,

Ali S Jan 02, 2016 02:54pm

Celebrating New Year with 47 executions, Saudi style. They seem to be competing for some kind of race to the bottom - who can be the worst violator of human rights.

Irfan umrani Jan 02, 2016 03:07pm

Why Does Pakistan prefer to remain a silent ?

Irfan umrani Jan 02, 2016 03:10pm

@anees from zaida yes those who were executed were Saudis . But they were executed due to their sectarian affiliation that's Shia

MAlvi Jan 02, 2016 03:21pm

@Aroon It is not that simple, "their country, their laws". Anywhere in the world, people have their rights and want to live their lives with freedom. If the government of one country is not providing it, other countries come to help. It is under that principle that America interferes everywhere, for freedom and human rights.

Kris Jan 02, 2016 03:23pm

Many innocent people have lost their life in KSA a place where human rights not existing at all. Saudi along with Kuwaitis are the most racist in ME. South Asian workers are being treated as slaves. There are incidents that an employer trapping an employee by planting drugs on the employee's van and tipped to police. Result is beheading!!!

Tariq Jan 02, 2016 03:30pm

There should no room for creating unrest and infighting due to ideological and political difference. A peaceful resistance for any grievances are more desirable.

ehsan Jan 02, 2016 03:32pm

While they are quick to execute "terrorist" in their own country, they have no shame in supporting terrorist in other countries. our own country has been the victim of their support to such groups.

Danish Jan 02, 2016 03:55pm

@Kamal Pasha ... Bravo Pasha Sahib, right on target. No more comments please.

MARXIT Jan 02, 2016 04:02pm

Deplorable act by Al Saud.

natey Jan 02, 2016 04:05pm

america is quiet n pretending to be nice with saudi bcoz of oil...the moment world cars move to electrics or saudi oil gets finish...america will treat saudi like rubbish.....only reason saud family are still in power is oil..and only oil...without oil it will be another iraq or they better think about future and see how uae dubai not following saudis ..

noshin Jan 02, 2016 04:06pm

conservative Islamic kingdom exactly!

Faisal Jan 02, 2016 04:11pm

Kamal Pasha Bravo. The Saudis appear to be in state of panic. I am sure in order to create a smoke screen on the execution of Sheikh Nimr the others are also executed.

Something Fishy Jan 02, 2016 04:11pm

@M.Saeed No one forces to any one to go the square where executions are happening. And public executions serve the purpose of warning to the masses.

Something Fishy Jan 02, 2016 04:13pm

@Aroon No sir, mostly, it is not the same. there is a huge difference between the ones on work permits for specific jobs and the immigrants/naturalized ones.

Also, those countries are never tired of claiming to be 'the civilized' and are criticized as per their own definitions!

Something Fishy Jan 02, 2016 04:16pm

@Asim Iqbal "Killers of innocent people deserve this kind of treatment."

correct, assuming it is true what is blamed.

Fayyaz Ali Jan 02, 2016 04:30pm

Human Rights are held in abeyance in Saudi Arabia. its regime is non representative, despotic and authoritarian. Executions in Saudi Arabia are done without due process of law and basic legal considerations. Execution of Al Nimar is highly condemnable and deplorable. Democratic countries of world should take notice of it.

Aqeel Ahmed Jan 02, 2016 04:32pm

Saudi Arabia has done well by executing 47; In Saudi Arabia crime is low just because of that public execution. On the other hand crime is rife in Pakistan and to seek justice is a wild cry. In Pakistan Justice is so expensive only corrupt can set their wrongdoings in order

Iftikhar Husain Jan 02, 2016 04:35pm

Sir can we protest on this.

Muhammad Jan 02, 2016 04:40pm

Execution of prominent Shia Muslim cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr who was struggling for the rights of suppressed Shia minority will cost Saudi Monarchs very heavily,

uk-expat Jan 02, 2016 05:05pm

@Fayyaz Ali let it be a lesson to the other muslim countries including Iran.

Safdar Jan 02, 2016 05:06pm

@Aqeel Ahmed have you bothered to check who these people were especially sheikh Nimr? What was his fault? He appeared on tv condemning police brutalities and treatment of people in eastern province. That's all

uk-expat Jan 02, 2016 05:08pm

@Iftikhar Husain not really ,their country ,their law. Terrorist in all shape or form have to be condemned. This is what you get when you play with innocent lives. Thank you Saudia Arabia.

Fayyaz Ali Jan 02, 2016 05:19pm

@uk-expat Iran is not a monarchical state, it is an islamic democratic state, whereby president is elected through elections. In Saudi Arabia King is nominated through inheritance in Saud family.

ali Jan 02, 2016 05:19pm

their country their law! its not country of one family!

ali Jan 02, 2016 05:23pm

@Ziaurrehman ! its not country of one family!

Arif Jan 02, 2016 05:41pm

We condemn this act of Saudi Monarch.. Giving death sentences to your own peacefull people like Sheikh Nimr just for exposing the flaws in your regime is seriously deplorable..

Iqbal Jan 02, 2016 05:44pm

@MAlvi you know nothing about international politics.

ali Jan 02, 2016 05:51pm

their country their law! why they r playing havoc in yemene? why they r supporting terrorests in syria ? their country their law ! logicless

True Islam Jan 02, 2016 06:11pm

@Ziaurrehman Saudi Monarchs are not elected representatives of Saudi people moreover in modern world you cannot allow a bunch of people to dictate their laws and kill innocent people like Sheikh Nimr who has nothing to do with terrorism he was simply raising voice for his oppressed shia community

Changez_Khan Jan 02, 2016 06:14pm

This is Barbaric and Cruel. The Saudis themselves have spent billions of dollars supporting hardcore extremists

mirza Jan 02, 2016 06:19pm

@Kamal Pasha whats your solution??

mirza Jan 02, 2016 06:20pm

@Ziaurrehman You are right but wrong has to be identified and wrong and right as right what ever and where ever

zee Jan 02, 2016 06:21pm

43 out of 47 executed people were sunnis,so its not true that the executions were carried because of their sectarian affiliation,,plus why is iran so much angry at the treatment of shias in saudi arabia when it itself is not behind saudi arabia in suppressing its own sunni minority .both should respect the rights of their helpless minorities.

ailly Jan 02, 2016 06:35pm

@Iftikhar Husain ... NO you cannot protest on this as its their law of land very well in place since centuries.

Canada Jan 02, 2016 06:45pm

Their country their law? If they are so pious, so self-righteous and virtuous then why not execute the princes caught for rape in India and California? Why not execute the one caught in Lebanon transporting $1B of drugs? Or the ones partying and drinking alcohol? Why not help Syrians refugees, instead of helping bomb them? I can go on and on but Im limited to the amount of characters.

Syed Hussain Akbarii Jan 02, 2016 06:51pm

@Irfan umrani
Because Pakistani government is with KSA under multiple agreements / coalation.

MNN Jan 02, 2016 07:17pm

@Canada yes indeed if they caught in SA, they also face the same fate. And who we are ask to SA? See our own home land country. Where law is only for poor people. For rich there are no rule and law.

Basit Jan 02, 2016 07:23pm

Iran should introspect how they treat their sunny minority before commenting on others. They execute many times more than Saudis do. Pakistan should also improve and dispense justice fairly from the rich to the poor.

Zain Jan 02, 2016 07:28pm

Al Saud this is your act of extremism against innocent shia muslim .Wait for God jutice ,which is not very far now.

Muslim Jan 02, 2016 07:30pm

@Basit "Iran should introspect how they treat their sunny minority before commenting on others" kindly quote a single example where Iran mistreated Sunnis ? just putting unfounded blames on others to justify the crimes of Saudi Monarchs is not good

razi Jan 02, 2016 07:41pm

That is not a good news. The Saudis need to be more far sighted and have to put their house in order. The declining revenue in view of low oil prices and increasing domestic consumption pose serious threats to economic stability and that demands amicability and unity at home and better relations with neighbors. Their government is doing just the opposite.

Karachiite Jan 02, 2016 07:42pm

Ayatullah Al Nimir never killed anyone and he organized peaceful protests. This injustice against Al Nimr will be avenged, inshaAllah.

Mustafa US Jan 02, 2016 07:44pm

The execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was cruel, senseless, and abhorrent and the execution was carried out despite International pleas for mercy were ignored. This also displays the abuse of State power. Sheikh Nimr's only 'crimes' were to fight against the marginalization of the state's Shia community and to fight for their equality.

The international rights group Reprieve called the executions "appalling", saying at least four of those killed, including Sheikh Nimr, were put to death for offences related to political protest.

"The Sheikh was denied the most basic means to prepare for his defense and was not represented by legal counsel for some of the proceedings because the authorities did not inform his lawyer of some dates of the hearings."

Amit Jan 02, 2016 07:45pm

Such medieval brutality . Saudi arabia is one of the wealthiest nations on earth , why can't they spend money on rehabilitation in prison of those who have been convicted of less grievous crimes , instead of decapitating them ? what kind of a civilized Govt is this ?

And if convicts have to be executed as per law,why make a public spectacle out of it ? the article mentions that "apostasy" is also punishable by death . is thinking also banned in Saudi arabia ?

Mike London Jan 02, 2016 07:46pm

How can in a theocratic country political prisoners be executed, what does political crime have to do with theology/sharia. It seems like what ever the ruling family decides is the Law of land.

Amir Jan 02, 2016 07:50pm

Demise of House of Saud has started!

Basit Jan 02, 2016 07:53pm

@Muslim Google treatment of Sunnis in Iran you will find dozens, try Guardian or Aljazeera to name a few. The ratio of Shia executed in Saudi is not different from the ratio of their population in their country. It is Iran who is giving it a sectarian color.

From another article published a few days ago in dawn "About 157 executions in Saudi", Iran has executed over a thousand people this year as opposed to 157 by Saudis. Who is to say all those people were guilty or none was sunni. Please don't give it a sectarian color. I hope they both are working to improve their human rights at the same time prevent terrorism and instability in their countries.

Raj Jan 02, 2016 08:19pm

Due to ensure the safety for kingdom they had to done such job.

Truth Jan 02, 2016 08:26pm

@anees from zaida Yes every single one was suadi but did not agree with saudi policies. They paid the ultimate price. Might is Right.

Innocent man OB Jan 02, 2016 08:32pm

There is a clear polarization of opinions based on whether you are Sunnie or Shia, without going into facts. This is alarming as others can use this state if mind to their advantage. I wonder what percentage of all Muslims around the globe are Sunnie and how many are Shias? Let's give the share according to population and everybody will be happy.

Touseef Jan 02, 2016 08:37pm

So they behead humans & then display their bodies, a time tested way to silence humanity.

sbk Jan 02, 2016 08:39pm

Executing shia Muslims in the name of Sect is highly condemnable.

Mulazim hussain Jan 02, 2016 08:41pm

On one hand the Saudis are ruthless in executing his people on charges of extremism,while on the other hand they are supporting and funding the extremists throughout the world,especially the the country like Pakistan

Touseef Jan 02, 2016 08:44pm

@Ziaurrehman humanity is universal, and pakistanis like every other nationalities be it Indian, Nepalis, Europeans, provide our service to Saudis and get paid in return. We don't and I repeat we don't serve Saudia Arabia nor are we their slaves.

Muzzamil Jan 02, 2016 08:51pm

@Ziaurrehman with your pathetic logic, shouldn't they leave Yemen alone rather than bombing innocent civilians? Their country and their laws

saz Jan 02, 2016 08:55pm

Saudis execute those who are opponents of their Govt and label them as terrorist

sbk Jan 02, 2016 09:12pm

Let all Muslims ( Both Sunni & Shia) condemn this execution of Shia Muslims.

uk-expat Jan 02, 2016 09:25pm

@Mulazim hussain Exactly like what Iran is doing to the other countries.

concerned Jan 02, 2016 09:32pm

There is something extremely wrong with the mindset of Saudi leadership...heavily involved in Syria and Iraq, killing hundreds of innocents in Yemen and now this murder of political dissidents...

wshaikh Jan 02, 2016 09:35pm

Saudis are not executing terrorist. They are executing people who are against the ruling clan. Why any country in the west say some thing about this execution? A massive execution, forty seven (47) people in a single day.

Agha Ata Jan 02, 2016 10:10pm

How come Saudia Arabia gets so many executable people every day?

Muslim Medina Jan 02, 2016 11:05pm

Just one sentence. The Saudi Laws are for the people and not for Royal Family or rich Arabs.

fiaz kazmi Jan 02, 2016 11:39pm

Executing shia cleric sheikh Nimer in the name of Sect is highly condemnable.

Ali Jan 03, 2016 12:00am

law of the land? could you please elaborate who gave them this land? these are tribal people, their territories are being marked generations after generations, even before Islam. How the heck can Saudis justify their monarchy over tribes? And as in Pakistan, the way to go with the tribes is to let them handle their issues. In this case we are talking about Shias living in a Shia majority area. How come they made extremists? Religious zeal or gross economic/cultural/religious injustice?

I believe in the Gulf if any sane system to form a Union is, that's the model of UAE and even there the smaller Emirates complain about their bigger counterparts. Still far from perfect, atleast on paper and for what my small time experience with Emaratis is that its not a problem which disturb their life in general over a broader life-time.

Bye Bye Jan 03, 2016 12:21am

"what kind of a civilized Govt is this ?"

They are the most proven uncivilized kingdom nation in the region.

saz Jan 03, 2016 01:31am

Would any reasonable Govt will execute some one if he asks for elections and criticize Govt over her policies??

Naveed Jan 03, 2016 02:22am

History rhymes,

Mehtab Jan 03, 2016 02:54am

Saudi days are numbered. Sheikh Nimr was executed because of demanding basic human rights.

Cyrus Jan 03, 2016 05:10am

They execution of Nimr al Nimr was a political assassination. Shias do not have associations with al Qaeda.

wasim Jan 03, 2016 05:46am

so many non-muslim living like muslim across the islamic world.. then i was thinking to use the cream of crop or the intelligences to stop them... but then 911 happened... all the cream of crop and intelligences made busy with...the criminals of all kinds had been now part of muslim society.

Adeel Jan 03, 2016 07:04am

Sing my tunes and you are artist, sing anything else and you are threat !

Rajendra Tiwari Jan 03, 2016 07:06am

The countries which violate human rights should be expelled from the United Nations.

ss Jan 03, 2016 07:19am

good work. this is how terrorists should be dealt with.

Noman Jan 03, 2016 07:54am

This should be strongly condemned

Sajjad Khan Jan 03, 2016 02:50pm

This is an evil and decaying regime which has no respect for human life

Moazzam Jan 03, 2016 06:12pm

Saudi Arabia. The only country supporting terrorism in Islamic World. Supporting terrorism in Syria. Supported terrorism of Dash in past. Supporting terrorism in Pakistan. Supporting state terror in Egypt. Supporting state terror in Yemen. This country is working to weaking Islamic world and paving the way for Jewish and Christianity.

rajesh@india Jan 03, 2016 07:49pm

@Aroon hats off.

kamal Jan 03, 2016 09:54pm

Mediaval culture and medival society, unfortunately we have to live with them in 21st century.

Eramangalam Somapalan Jan 04, 2016 10:52am

@Naveed Pathetic lesson of history is that no one learns anything from history.

rahul1 Jan 04, 2016 11:33am

KSA - Mere Tribal

Observer1 Jan 05, 2016 06:26am

@Ziaurrehman As you said we go their to work and make money, not to beg. its our duty to stand up and support innocents no matter where they are. Everyone has the right to be free and should practice their religion freely. Saudi or no one has the right to oppress them.

Observer1 Jan 05, 2016 06:28am

@anees from zaida thats not true , there were non Saudis in that. Watch Saudi TV