Saudi Arabia's execution of a leading cleric from the Shi'ite Muslim minority drew warnings of a backlash against the ruling Al Saud family and threatened to further intensify a wave of sectarian conflict in the region.
Lebanon's Supreme Islamic Shi'ite Council called the execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimr a "grave mistake", and the Hezbollah group termed it an assassination. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, an establishment cleric in largely Shia rival Iran, said repercussions against the Sunni Saudi rulers would "wipe them from the pages of history."
Saudi Arabia executed 47 people including Nimr, whom the government accused of inciting violence against the police. His supporters say he is a peaceful dissident who called for greater rights for the kingdom's Shi'ite minority.
Scores of Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province marched through Nimr's home district of Qatif shouting "down with the Al Saud", and dozens more gathered in nearby Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled island kingdom allied to Saudi Arabia.
In Iran, a Shi'ite theocracy and rival to Saudi Arabia, state media channels carried non-stop coverage of clerics and secular officials eulogizing Nimr and predicting the downfall of Saudi Arabia's Sunni ruling family.
Shi'ite leaders in Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Yemen also warned of reprisals, in a signal that sectarian conflicts across the Middle East could be further inflamed.
On a day where a Saudi-led coalition announced the end of a ceasefire in its war with Yemen's Houthi movement, the Houthis said Nimr had been afforded only a “mock trial.”