The execution of an Islamic cleric by Saudi Arabia has sparked violent protests in Iran and halted diplomatic relations — but the Saudi foreign minister told CNBC on Tuesday that the man in question was "as much a religious scholar as Osama bin Laden."
Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of foreign affairs, added that "Iranians have got away with murder, literally, for more than 30 years," in the exclusive interview.
Cleric and sheikh, Nimr al-Nimr, was among 47 people put to death this weekend in Saudi Arabia for terrorism-related offences. His death prompted some Iranians to storm the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Sunday and the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to predict Saudi Arabia would suffer "divine vengeance."
Saudi Arabia has since cut diplomatic relations with Iran, with which it has long had a highly volatile relation.
Al-Jubeir insisted on Tuesday that al-Nimr was a terrorist that threatened his country's safety.
"Our response is that he is a terrorist. He is as much of a religious scholar as Osama bin Laden was," the 53-year-old foreign minister told CNBC in English.
"He was implicated in inciting people, recruiting people, providing weapons and munitions for people and he was involved in attacks against security people and police stations that led to the killing of the innocents."