A leaked memo has revealed that authorities in Saudi Arabia were well aware of the crisis that would ensue, following the mass execution of 47 people in the New Year.
The memo reveals that the intelligence community anticipated and may have orchestrated the angry response from Iran.
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 December, 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.