TEHRAN: Saudi Arabia should not respond to criticism of its regime by beheading people, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday, referring to Riyadh’s recent execution for “terrorism” of Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric who had been behind anti-government protests among Saudi Arabia’s Shia Muslim minority.
Officials have not said how Nimr was put to death, but beheading is common in the conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom, which has since cut diplomatic ties with predominantly Shia Iran.
“One does not respond to criticism by cutting off heads,” Rouhani said as he welcomed visiting Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen to Tehran.
“I hope that European countries who always react on human rights matters will meet their duties.”
Human rights groups frequently criticise use of the death penalty in Iran, where hanging is employed.
Rouhani also accused Saudi Arabia of using the row over Nimr, which led a mob to ransack and set fire to the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran, as an excuse to sever ties between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia’s consulate in second city Mashhad was also torched.
“Saudi Arabia cannot cover its crime of having cut off the head of a cleric by cutting relations,” he said.
The violence was condemned by Rouhani, and Iran’s judiciary has said 50 people involved in the incidents, including ringleaders, have been arrested and will face legal action.
Iran’s mission at the United Nations also expressed “regret” at the fireraising and disobedience in a letter to the United Nations Security Council.
‘Cutting ties would not hurt Iran’
Before Rouhani spoke, a government spokesman, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, said cutting diplomatic relations “would not hurt Iran or damage its development”.
Bahrain and Sudan also broke ties with Iran, and a number of other Arab countries have recalled their envoys, in sympathy with Riyadh.