[The death sentence was carried out despite widespread international appeals for clemency and repeated warnings from the kingdom’s archenemy
that there would be
consequences if the popular cleric were killed.] Iran
Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi Embassy in
demonstration Saturday, Mohammadreza Nadimi/
BEIRUT — Protesters stormed and torched the Saudi Arabian Embassy in
on Saturday after the
execution of a prominent Shiite cleric ignited sectarian tensions across the
already inflamed region, jeopardizing Tehran diplomacy aimed at tamping
down conflicts in the U.S. Middle East.
The U.S. State Department, which had refrained from publicly joining the appeals for Nimr’s life, said it had raised concerns at the highest levels of the Saudi government about the judicial process in
In a statement, it called on Saudi
Arabia “to respect and protect human rights” and
also to permit “peaceful expression of dissent.” Saudi Arabia
“We are particularly concerned that the execution of prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced,” the State Department said in a statement. “In this context, we reiterate the need for leaders throughout the region to redouble efforts aimed at de-escalating regional tensions.”
Angry demonstrations were held in several Iranian cities, including
, where protesters broke into the Saudi Embassy,
ransacked it and set it ablaze. Video posted on Twitter showed crowds smashing
the windows with crowbars and overturning furniture. Demonstrators also torched
the Iranian consulate in the city of Tehran . Mashhad
“He said Sunnis and Shiites should unite and that anyone who supports the oppressors should be condemned,” she said, citing a 2012 speech Nimr delivered in which he condemned both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is from the Shiite-affiliated Alawite sect and is backed by Iran, and the region’s Sunni authoritarian leaders, including the Saudi royal family.
“This was a big part of why he became problematic for the Saudi regime, because he refused to abide by the sectarian discourse that is basically enforced on everyone,” Khawaja said.