Saudi Arabia sentences Shia nationals to death for spying for Iran

Protesters in Karachi demonstrate against the execution in January of Shia cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Protesters in Karachi demonstrate against the execution in January of Shia cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

BBC – A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced 15 people to death for spying for Iran.

They were among 32 people – comprising 30 members of the kingdom’s Shia Muslim minority, an Iranian national and an Afghan – put on trial in February.

Prosecutors accused them of treason, setting up a spy ring in collaboration with Iranian intelligence, and passing about sensitive data on military zones.

Tensions between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shia-led Iran have escalated in the past year.

Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in January following the storming of its embassy in Tehran by protesters angered by the execution of the prominent Saudi Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and three other Shia.

Saudi officials insisted Nimr was guilty of terrorism offences, but Iran’s supreme leader said he had been executed solely for his criticism of the Sunni monarchy.

The regional powers also back opposing sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

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