Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has stopped the death sentence given to prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr after Chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council (EC) Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a message warned Riyadh against the repercussions of the execution, Arab media said.
Iraq’s al-Youm al-Samen news website said in a report that the Saudi King has intervened and called off the court ruling after Rafsanjani’s letter. No official report has yet confirmed the revelation.
On October 25, Hashemi Rafsanjani in a message warned the Saudi King against the consequences of the death sentence given to Nimr.
“In this period of time that conspiracies have targeted the lands of the Islamic Ummah, stopping the sentence for Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Baqer al-Nimr will disappoint those who sow discord, will increase interactions and settle the problems of the Muslim world,” Hashemi Rafsanjani said in his message.
He underlined the sensitive regional and international conditions of the Muslim world, and said stopping Sheikh al-Nimr’s death sentence would strengthen unity among the Shiites and Sunnis.
“Muslims expect you to take such a decision,” Hashemi Rafsanjani said.
On October 15, a Saudi court handed down the death penalty to Sheikh Nimr after convicting him of sedition.
The cleric was attacked and arrested in July 2012, accused of delivering anti-regime speeches and defending political prisoners.
In reaction to the sentence, people took to streets in the Saudi city of Qatif to condemn the move. There have also been demonstrations in other countries.
Human rights activists say the sentence issued for Sheikh Nimr is politically-motivated.
Amnesty International has denounced the verdict, calling it “appalling”.
Rights groups say Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are committing systematic human rights abuses.