Washington’s closest ally in the Arab world, the dictatorial monarchy of Saudi Arabia, ushered in the New Year with a torrent of blood, simultaneously executing 47 prisoners.
This wave of state murders unfolded at 12 separate prisons across the kingdom. At eight of them, the condemned were beheaded, while at four others they were cut down by firing squads. The headless corpses were then crucified and left hanging in public as a hideous warning to any who would even contemplate opposing the absolute power of the ruling royal family.
The most prominent of those put to death was Nimr al-Nimr, a Muslim cleric and leading spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s oppressed Shiite minority. Nimr, who was interrogated under torture and then brought before a kangaroo court, was convicted on charges that included “disobeying the ruler” and “encouraging, leading and participating in demonstrations.”
These “crimes” stemmed from the mass protests that swept Saudi Arabia’s predominantly Shiite Eastern Province in 2011, expressing popular demands for democratic reforms and an end to the Sunni monarchy’s discrimination and oppression of the Shiite population.