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From its viewpoint it was a smart political move.
The Saudis are in trouble over their war on Yemen. After nine month of bombing the hell out of the country there is no chance that the aim of their war, reinstalling their proxy government in Sanaa, will be reached anytime soon. Meanwhile Yemeni forces raid (vid) one Saudi town after another. The Saudi regime change projects via Salafi jihadists in Iraq and Syria are also faltering. The low oil price make it necessary for the Saudi government to introduce taxes on its people. New taxes are hardly ever popular.
To divert from these problems the Saudis decided to get rid of a bunch of prisoners and to use the event to regain some legitimacy. Many of the 47 killed were truly al-Qaida types who a decade ago had killed and blown up buildings in Saudi Arabia and wanted to violently overthrow the Saudi government. With the recent anti-Saudi calls of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda a jailbreak or some hostage taking to free the prisoners were a real possibility. Only four of the killed were of Shia believe. One of those was the prominent rabble rousing Shia preacher Nimr Baqr al-Nimr from the majority Shia eastern Saudi province Qatif.
originally posted by: Reverbs
no one will do that.