SHAFAQNA – The Swiss foreign ministry summoned the Saudi Arabian charge d’affaires to express its opposition to the mass execution of 47 people, including a prominent Shiite cleric.
In a statement issued on Monday, the foreign ministry said it had summoned the Saudi diplomat to explain Switzerland’s principled opposition to the use of the death penalty.
“These mass executions risk to reignite sectarian tensions which have already caused too many victims in the region,” the statement said.
The execution on Saturday of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others was the largest mass execution carried out by Saudi Arabia since 1980, which drew worldwide condemnations.
In Tehran, a protest outside the Saudi Embassy early on Sunday quickly grew violent as protesters threw stones and gasoline bombs at the embassy, setting part of the building ablaze. Forty people were arrested and investigators were reportedly pursuing other suspects.
Protesters took to the streets from Bahrain to Pakistan, while Arab allies of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia lined up behind the kingdom. Sudan and the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain said they would severe ties with Iran, as Saudi Arabia did. The United Arab Emirates announced it would downgrade ties to Tehran to the level of the charge d’affaires and would only focus on economic issues. Somalia also issued a statement criticizing Iran.
The Swiss foreign ministry urged all governments from the region to work to de-escalate the situation.
“Everything should now be done to lower tensions and avoid provocations,” it declared, Swissinfo website reported.
Al-Nimr was a central figure in the protests in the Saudi Arabia until his arrest in 2012. He was convicted of terrorism charges but denied advocating violence.