UN chief "deeply dismayed" by execution of 47 in Saudi Arabia

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UN Photo/Martine Perret

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply dismayed" by the recent execution of 47 people in Saudi Arabia, that has provoked a major diplomatic storm in the Middle East.

Mr Ban said that the executions, which included that of the prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, raised "serious concerns over the nature of the charges" and what he called "the fairness of the process."

Daniel Dickinson has more,

In a statement, Mr Ban called for "calm and restraint" in the region, in reaction to the execution of Sheikh Nimr, and called on leaders to avoid exacerbating sectarian tensions.

He reiterated his "strong stance" against the death penalty, and urged Saudi Arabia to commute all death sentences it has imposed in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is a majority Sunni country, and several of its allies have taken diplomatic measures against the Shiite-led government of Iran, which condemned the execution of Sheikh Nimr.

On Sunday, the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital, Tehran, was set on fire by protesters supporting the executed Sheikh.

Iranian authorities arrested dozens of protesters at the embassy, but late on Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced that it was cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran. Iranian diplomats in Saudi Arabia, have been given two days to leave.

Other Sunni-majority allies in the region have followed suit, with Bahrain and Sudan severing ties, and the United Arab Emirates saying that it was downgrading diplomatic relations.

Iran's foreign ministry accused Saudi Arabia of "increasing tension" and of acting hastily in severing diplomatic links.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations.

Duration: 1’19″

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