A senior Iranian official has called on Riyadh to overturn the death ruling handed down to prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and not fuel tensions in the Muslim world any further.
“Relevant Saudi [judicial] officials are expected to adopt a realistic approach and prevent the execution of the [death] sentence and keep tensions in the Muslim world from escalating,” said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
He said the death ruling could raise Muslims’ sentiments and trigger international outcry.
“If the news [that the cleric has been sentenced to death] is true, that will undoubtedly hurt Muslims’ feelings and provoke international reaction,” the top diplomat noted.
He underlined that such moves will, by no means, help restore peace and tranquility to the restive Middle East region.
The senior Saudi Shia cleric is accused of delivering anti-government speeches and defending political prisoners.
Nimr was attacked and arrested in the Qatif region in July 2012. His arrest sparked widespread protests in Saudi Arabia, leaving several people dead.
There have been numerous demonstrations in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province since 2011, with the protestors calling for political reform and an end to what they call widespread discrimination. Several people have been killed and many others injured or arrested during the demonstrations.
The Persian Gulf monarchy has come under fire from international human rights organizations, which have criticized it for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. Critics say the country shows zero-tolerance toward dissent.