Dubai, Jan 3: Iran’s supreme leader said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia will face “divine revenge” for executing a top Shia cleric whose death sparked protests in which the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran was firebombed.
“The unjustly spilled blood of this oppressed martyr will no doubt soon show its effect and divine vengeance will befall Saudi politicians,” state TV reported Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying. It said he described the execution as a “political error”.
Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr alongside 46 others including dozens of al-Qaeda members, in the country’s biggest mass execution in three decades.
In Tehran the Saudi embassy was ransacked after protesters threw petrol bombs and stormed the building. The kingdom’s consulate in Mashhad, Iran’s second biggest city, was also set on fire.
Saudi foreign ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki called Iran’s reaction “irresponsible”, and summoned Tehran’s envoy in protest.
The embassy demonstrators were cleared out by police and 40 arrests have been made, Tehran’s prosecutor told the ISNA news agency, adding that more detentions could follow.
Tensions were already rising with Saudi Arabia summoning the Iranian envoy to the kingdom to protest at Tehran’s earlier angry response to the execution.
Nimr was a talismanic figure in protests that broke out in 2011 in the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s east, where the Shia minority complains of marginalisation. His arrest in July 2012 sparked days of protest.
Hundreds of Shias marched through Nimr’s home district of Qatif in protest at the execution, eyewitnesses told Reuters news agency, chanting “down with the Al Saud” in reference to the Saudi ruling family.