France, Germany condemn Saudi execution of Shia cleric, urge calm

AFP , Sunday 3 Jan 2016

France and Germany on Sunday condemned Saudi Arabia's execution of 47 prisoners, including a Shia cleric, and voiced concerns about growing tensions in the Middle East following riots in Shia-dominated Iran.

France "deeply deplores Saudi Arabia's execution Saturday of 47 people, including a Shia religious leader," the foreign ministry said in a statement, calling on leaders in the region to "do everything to avoid exacerbating sectarian and religious tensions."

France opposes the death penalty "in all places and circumstances," the statement added.

The condemnation from Paris was echoed in Berlin.

"The death penalty is an inhumane punishment that we reject in all circumstances," a German foreign ministry spokesman told AFP. "The execution of (imam) Nimr Baqr al-Nimr reinforces our current concerns about the growing the region," he said.

Nimr was a driving force behind anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia in 2011.

His execution, along with other Shia activists and Sunnis accused of involvement in Al-Qaeda attacks, sparked demonstrations in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain as well as among Shias in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province.

In Tehran, furious protesters ransacked the Saudi embassy on Saturday after setting it alight.

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