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Leaked memo shows Riyadh anticipated backlash of executions

5 January 2016 7:19


A leaked memo shows that Saudi authorities were fully aware that the mass execution of 47 people, including prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, would cause global uproar.    

According to the letter which was penned by the director of Saudi security services before the killings, forces in the kingdom were ordered to cancel holidays from December 31 onwards and to exercise “maximum precaution” until further notice, The Independent reported on Monday.

The document, marked very urgent, was sent to unit directors in regions where the executions were carried out on Saturday, and passed by Saudi activists to human rights group Reprieve, which in turn leaked it to media sources.

“This letter shows the level of preparation the Saudi authorities went to ahead of Saturday, having predicted the outrage that would follow their politically-motivated executions of protesters,” said Maya Foa, the head of Reprieve’s death penalty team.

“If the Saudi government really wants to prove itself on the international stage, it must stop torturing and executing protesters, and commit to fair, transparent trials,” she added.

A Bahraini woman holds a poster of prominent Shia Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr during clashes with police following a protest against the execution of Nimr by Saudi authorities, in the village of Daih, west of the capital Manama, on January 4, 2016. (AFP)

The executions, especially that of the Shia cleric, has drawn condemnation from governments and human rights groups from all over the world. Multiple protests have been held in Nimr’s home town in Qatif in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and other countries including Iran, Bahrain, Pakistan and India.

Sheikh Nimr, a critic of the Riyadh regime, was shot by Saudi police and arrested in 2012 in Qatif, which was the scene of peaceful anti-regime demonstrations at the time.

He was charged with instigating unrest and undermining the kingdom’s security. He had rejected the charges as baseless.

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