Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed 47 people for ‘terrorism’, mostly suspected Al Qaeda members, but also a prominent Shiite cleric, Nimr al Nimr, Interior Ministry said in a statement broadcast on state television.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia detained thousands of terror suspects after a series of Al Qaeda attacks between 2003-06 that killed hundreds.
However, it has also detained hundreds of members of its Shiite minority after the protests in 2011-13, during which several policemen were killed in shooting and petrol bomb attacks.
Saudi Arabia's main regional rival, Iran, has warned that executing Nimr "would cost Saudi Arabia dearly."
The interior minister named the 47 men and listed crimes that included both involvement in attacks and so called radicalised ideology.
At least three other Shiites were executed alongside Nimr, including Ali al Rubh, whom relatives claimed was a juvenile at the time of the alleged incident.
The brother of prominent Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al Nimr said the family was shocked by the news of his brother's execution, but hoped that any reaction would be peaceful.
"We hope that any reactions would be confined to a peaceful framework. No one should have any reaction outside this peaceful framework. Enough bloodshed,” Mohammed al Nimr told Reuters by telephone.
The simultaneous executions were the biggest mass execution for such offences in Saudi Arabia. The last time such an incident occurred was in 1980, when 63 rebels who seized Mecca's Grand Mosque in 1979 were given the death penalty.