(Al Arabiya News)-Saudi Shiite cleric and protest leader Nimr al-Nimr was sentenced to death on Wednesday after a judge found him guilty of “sedition,” Agence France-Presse cited his family as saying.
Nimr led demonstrations in 2011 in the oil-flush east of the kingdom, alongside a Shiite-led protest movement in neighboring Bahrain.
The cleric was also convicted of seeking “foreign meddling” in the country, a reference to Iran, his brother Mohammed al-Nimr wrote on Twitter.
Nimr, who is in his 50s, had been on trial since March 2013. He was found guilty of “disobeying” the kingdom’s rulers and taking up arms against security forces, his brother said.
Nimr’s family accused the court of ignoring the sheik’s “peaceful and non-violent approach,” saying the case had caused “social and political discontent.”
“The ruling… is political par excellence,” his relatives in the Eastern Province communities of Awamiya and Qatif said in a statement.
They called for a dialogue with officials, “out of concern for our dear country.”
Meanwhile, another court on Wednesday sentenced a suspected al-Qaeda Sunni extremist to death and 21 others to various jail sentences after they were convicted of a range of militant crimes, including setting up training camps and identifying oil locations to hit, state news agency SPA reported.
Riyadh’s concern about Islamist militants has increased over the past two years as conflicts in Syria and Iraq have attracted more of its own citizens to travel there to join groups fighting in the name of jihad.
Of the 22 people convicted, the man sentenced to death was a citizen of Chad, SPA said. The rest, which included another Chadian and a someone described as Bengali, were given prison sentences of between five and 28 years.
The group was convicted of embracing militant ideology, the possession of ammunition in their apartment and firing on security services during a raid on their apartment in Mecca, killing one security officer.