Thousands of Shiite Muslims protested in Pakistan and Indian Kashmir on Sunday to condemn Saudi Arabia’s execution of a leading cleric Nimr al-Nimr, as fury over the killing spread.
The 56-year-old Shiite cleric was put to death along with 46 Shiite activists and Sunnis who the Saudi interior ministry said were involved in Al-Qaeda killings.
Some were beheaded, others were shot by firing squad.
Iran and Iraq’s top Shiite leaders also condemned the execution, warning ahead of protests that the killing was an injustice that could have serious consequences.
Peaceful protests were held across Pakistan, including in the southwestern city Quetta where about 1,000 people called on the government to reconsider its longtime ties with Riyadh and demonstrators held placards bearing anti-Saudi slogans.
In the eastern city of Lahore, around 1,500 took to the streets, calling Nimr’s execution a gross human rights violation, while in the port city of Karachi about a thousand men, women and children shouted slogans against the royal Saudi family.
Similar protests also took place in several districts of the southern Sindh province and the Pakistani capital Islamabad, where about 500 people gathered to call on the UN to intervene to stop Saudi Arabia from targeting Shiite Muslims.
Amid the rallies, Saudi foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir, who was scheduled to arrive in Islamabad Sunday evening, postponed his visit.
“The visit was postponed at the request of the authorities of Saudi Arabia,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement, adding the trip would take place on January 7.
Meanwhile in Srinagar, the main city of Indian-administered Kashmir, hundreds of angry Shiites clashed with police as they protested the cleric’s execution.
The demonstrators bearing photos of Nimr chanted “down with al-Saud dynasty,” referring to Saudi leaders and called them “stooges of America” as they marched toward the city centre.
Some hurled rocks at police, who fired tear gas and wielded batons in return, a senior police officer speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP.
Similar protests were also held in smaller towns across the Muslim-majority region, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in its entirety by both the South Asian rivals.
Iraq’s political and religious leaders united Sunday in condemnation of the execution by Saudi Arabia of a prominent Shiite cleric which they saw as a deliberate sectarian aggression.
“We received with deep sadness and regret the news of the martyrdom of a group of our brothers in the region,” Iraq’s top Shiite authority Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said.