Brother of executed Shia cleric hopes any reaction will be peaceful

Reuters , Saturday 2 Jan 2016

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 file photo, a Saudi anti-government protester carries a poster with the image of jailed Shia cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr during the funeral of three Shiite Muslims allegedly killed by Saudi security forces in the eastern town of al-Awamiya, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo, File)

The brother of prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr said on Saturday the family was shocked by news of his brother's execution but hoped that any reaction would be peaceful.

Nimr and six other Saudi Shia, including Mohammed al-Nimr's son, Ali, were sentenced to die and to have their bodies publicly displayed, the most severe penalty available to judges in the strict Sunni majority kingdom.

They were among 47 people put to death by Saudi Arabia on Saturday for terrorism, an apparent message to both Sunni Muslim militants and Shia anti-government protesters that the conservative Islamic kingdom will brook no violent dissent.

Mohammed al-Nimr said residents of Saudi Arabia's eastern al-Qatif region, where most of the country's mainly Shia Muslim minority live, were alarmed by the news.

"We were expecting and hoping that the voice of moderation and political settlements would prevail," Mohammed al-Nimr told Reuters by telephone. "We were shocked by this harsh news.

"Sheikh Nimr enjoyed high esteem in his community and within Muslim society in general and no doubt there will be reaction. We hope that any reactions would be confined to a peaceful framework," he said. "Enough bloodshed."

Nimr had long been regarded as the most vocal Shia leader in Qatif, willing to publicly criticise the Al Saud ruling family and call directly for elections. But he was careful to avoid calling for violence, analysts say.

Mohammed al-Nimr said his family hoped the authorities would hand over the body of Sheikh al-Nimr for a speedy burial.

"There is nothing left between us and the authorities except this pure body. We hope it would be handed over as soon as possible." 

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