TORONTO – Protesters clamored in downtown Toronto Sunday to rail against Saudi Arabia’s “unjust massacre” of prisoners including a prominent Shiite cleric, and to call on Ottawa to push for change.
On Saturday, the Saudi government announced the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other prisoners, including other Shiite dissidents opposed to the ruling Sunni regime.
Protests exploded in Turkey, and in Iran, where demonstrators torched the Saudi Arabian embassy.
On Sunday, dozens of protesters assembled outside the U.S. consulate on University Avenue to decry the executions.
“We’re here to condemn the beheading of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr,” Amnsasa Bowala told Global News. “We think this is unjust what [Saudi Arabia] did and we’re just looking to voice our opinion against this massacre.”
Adil Rizvi, who helped organize the protest, called on Canada to withdraw its support of the Saudi regime, which includes lucrative arms exports.
“We would like Canada to adhere to its wonderful record of human rights … and not support this brutal regime,” Rizvi said.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Stephane Dion issued a statement voicing Canada’s opposition to the death penalty and the executions in Saudi Arabia.
“The Government of Canada raises concerns about human rights and due process with senior Saudi Arabian officials on a regular basis and will continue to do so,” the statement reads in part. “In the wake of these executions, we reiterate our call to the Government of Saudi Arabia to protect human rights, respect peaceful expressions of dissent and ensure fairness in judicial proceedings.”
Dion also expressed concerns over the intensifying sectarian tensions resulting from the execution, particularly after the ensuing violence and Iran and subsequent severing of diplomatic ties between the two nations.
— With files from Caryn Lieberman
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