Brother of executed Shi'ite cleric hopes any reaction will be peaceful

by Reuters
Saturday, 2 January 2016 09:51 GMT

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DUBAI, Jan 2 (Reuters) - The brother of prominent Saudi Shi'ite 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 Shi'ites, 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 jihadists and Shi'ite 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 Shi'ite 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 Shi'ite 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." (Reporting by Sami Aboudi, editing by Noah Browning and Larry King)

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