Tensions between Iran and Saudi reached a new height on Sunday after the latter severed diplomatic ties with Iran after its Embassy was attacked in Tehran. Diplomats from both took to the media accusing themselves in a diplomatic battle not seen since the eighties. Saudi Arabia executed about 47 people on January 1st who it said were terrorists and among them was a prominent Shia cleric which has angered Iran. The man Sheik Al Nimr was profiled by a website set up in protest against his death sentence. Here how the website described him;
Nimr Baqr al-Nimr (Arabic: نمر باقر النمر) (or Nimr Baqir al-Namr, Nimr Bakir al-Nimr, Nemr Baqir al-Nemr) is an independent Shia Sheikh in al-Awamiyah, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. He is popular among youth and critical of the Saudi Arabian government. He claimed that he was beaten by Mabahith when arrested in 2006. In 2009, he criticised Saudi authorities and suggested secession of the Eastern Province if Saudi Shias’ rights were not better respected. A warrant for his arrest was issued and 35 people were arrested. During the 2011–2012 Saudi Arabian protests, al-Nimr called for protestors to resist police bullets using “the roar of the word” rather than violence, predicted the overthrow of the government if repression continued, and was seen by The Guardian as having “taken the lead in the uprising”.
On 8 July 2012 al-Nimr was shot by police in the leg and arrested, in what police described as an exchange of gunfire, however many human rights groups have described police accounts as “fantastical.” The Asharq Center for Human Rights expressed concern for al-Nimr’s health during his hunger strike on 21 August, calling for international support to allow access by family, lawyer and human rights activists.
On 15 October 2014, al-Nimr was sentenced to death by the Specialized Criminal Court for “seeking ‘foreign meddling’ in Saudi Arabia, ‘disobeying’ its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces” and his brother, Mohammad al-Nimr, was arrested on the same day for tweeting information about the death sentence.
The BBC also describes him as being a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests in the province, where a Shia majority have long complained of marginalisation. The BBC also said he had a particularly strong following among Shia youth in Saudi Arabia – as well as in Bahrain. The BBC further explains that Sheikh Nimr was more of a peaceful protester and prefered to fight with words than with weapons. In 2011, he told the BBC that he supported “the roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons… the weapon of the word is stronger than bullets, because authorities will profit from a battle of weapons”.