By Arab News
By Sultan Al-Sughair
Saudi Arabia announced Saturday it had executed 47 prisoners convicted of terrorism charges, including Al-Qaida detainees and a prominent Shiite cleric who rallied violent protests against the government.
The Shiite cleric, Nimr Al-Nimr, had been convicted of committing eight crimes and delivering numerous hostile and fiery speeches since 2002 which led to the death and injury of several police officers.
Al-Nimr’s speeches were a driving force behind the violent protests that broke out in 2011 in Qatif that served third parties, most notably Iran.
He has been delivering regular religious sermons on Fridays at Imam Hussain Mosque in Al-Awamiyah since 2002. Later his sermons took on a political hue. He accused statesmen and security forces of blasphemy and called for public uprising against the state.
In March 2009, he criticized the Saudi authorities and suggested secession of the Shiite regions to form a united Shiite state. During the Shiite-led protest in Bahrain, Al-Nimr demanded the exit of Gulf armies from Bahrain, criticizing the rulers there, and demanding the release of what he called political prisoners.
In October 2011, he accused the Saudi media and state officials of covering up the “tyrannical oppression” of security forces, describing them as riot troops. In addition, he insulted the leaders and officials, objecting to appointments made by the state.
Al-Nimr demanded the formation of an internal religious opposition front to counter action against the Shiite agitation. Also, he called for public uprisings and disobedience, accusing the Kingdom of killing innocent Shiites.
He was detained several times, most recently on July 8, 2012, when he was shot in the leg by police in an exchange of gunfire. He was taken to hospital for treatment.
On Oct. 15, 2014, Al-Nimr was sentenced to death by the Special Criminal Court for his involvement in supporting terrorist cells facing security forces, resulting in the death and injury of security men and dozens of civilians. He was considered as the most dangerous instigator of sedition in the eastern region of the Kingdom.
Nimr Baqr Al-Nimr was born in 1959 in the city of Al-Awamiyah in Qatif province, and studied in his hometown. He traveled to Iran, where he joined the educational Hawza program for about 10 years before heading to Syria.
The cleric’s wife died in 2012 after a bitter struggle with cancer. She was taken to the United State for treatment at government expense.