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Saudi Arabia anticipated mass execution backlash: Leaked memo

Thousands of people took to the streets of Tehran again on Monday for the third consecutive day
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (C), Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef (R) and Defence Minister Mohamed bin Salman (AFP)

Authorities in Saudi Arabia were aware that a mass execution of 47 people would spark uproar, a leaked memo has revealed.

According to the internal communique seen by The Independent, the head of Riyadh’s security services ordered security forces in the country to cancel any holidays scheduled for early in 2016 and urged them to exercise “maximum precaution” until further notice.

The document was leaked to the human rights group Reprieve, which believes it shows the executions were “politically motivated”. The killings took place on 2 January, and included high-profile Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr who was arrested in 2012 for his role in organising protests in Saudi’s Shia-majority Eastern Province.

“This letter shows the level of preparation the Saudi authorities went to ahead of Saturday, having predicted the outrage that would follow their politically-motivated executions of protesters,” Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, told the Independent.

“If the Saudi government really wants to prove itself on the international stage, it must stop torturing and executing protesters, and commit to fair, transparent trials.”

The killings have since sparked protests in Nimr’s home region as well as large-scale protests in Bahrain, Pakistan and Iran, where protesters invaded the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Saturday night.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the Iranian capital again on Monday for the third consecutive day.  

Some 3,000 demonstrators gathered in eastern Tehran's Imam Hossein Square, chanting slogans against Saudi Arabia's Al-Saud royal family.

Iranian authorities have vowed to prosecute whoever was responsible for Saturday’s attack, but tensions between the two countries remain at fever pitch.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced that it would cut diplomatic ties with Iran and ordered all Iranian diplomatic personnel to leave the country. On Monday, Riyadh also announced that it would prevent its nationals from flying to Iran. 

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