‘He knew they’d kill him in the end’: Son of prominent Shia cleric al-Nimr speaks to RT

Mohammed al-Nimr, the son of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, executed in Saudi Arabia in the beginning of the year, has told RT how his father fought for the rights of "all the people" while having been allegedly tortured after his arrest by Riyadh.

"He spoke for all the people, he didn’t speak only for the Shia [community]. He asked the [Saudi] government to release all political prisoners. They got mad because he defended everyone who was oppressed by this government," Mohammed al-Nimr said, adding that many people looked up to his father when he started talking about human rights.

"That is one of the main things that they [Riyadh] didn't like about him," the cleric's son said.

Nimr al-Nimr, described by his son as an "honest and a gentle man," was a staunch critic of the Saudi leadership. The cleric, who called for the self-rule of the Saudi Shia population, was among 47 people executed in Saudi Arabia at the start of the year on terrorism charges. The execution sparked not only a strong reaction in the Middle East, but also an international outcry.

Hundreds of activists took to the streets of New York on Sunday, gathering in Times Square for an anti-Saudi rally. Protesters called for peace among the different branches of Islam, while condemning what they say is Saudi oppression of the Shias.

"Most people who know about my father will act in a human way. They are sincere. They’re seeing the truth, what is really going on," Mohammed al-Nimr told RT, adding that while "political activists and politicians... are aware of what is going on [in Saudi Arabia], the media here is not focusing on human rights very much."

Riyadh acts as if it is still living in the 20th century, the son of the Shia cleric said.

"Saudi Arabia still thinks it's 1980 and there is no internet, there is no international news. It’s like they are living in a small box, but the whole world is watching what is going on there. They are the only ones not seeing what is going on outside that box," he said, adding that while Riyadh’s leaders are "trying to prove themselves" to be a strong government by showing people "a strong fist," they have no right to do so "by killing their people."

The Saudi foreign minister, when warning other countries against intervening in the Kingdom's affairs, has said the death penalty is part of Saudi law.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr's son also told RT about how violently his father had been arrested and then treated while having been captured by the Saudis.

"He told us exactly how he was arrested. He was driving his car and they followed him, they bashed his car from behind, so the car hit a wall. Then they went to his car and pulled him out. His seatbelt was on. The policemen pulled him out of the car very roughly. Even the buckle of his seatbelt came out of the car. They shot him at close range four times, hitting his leg. He was not armed," Mohammed al-Nimr said.

Following the man's arrest, he wasn't given proper treatment for his injuries, his son said, adding that because his father had been deprived of sufficient pain medication, "he couldn’t sleep for basically one year" suffering from pain.

"He was tied with six chains to his bed, even though he couldn’t walk. They left one bullet in intentionally so it would stay in his thigh and bother him all the time," Mohammed al-Nimr said. After the man's execution, his family was not given the body for a proper burial, but it was instead hidden by the Saudis, his son said.

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"He didn’t back out. He didn’t change his opinion. He kept asking for justice. My father knew that they would kill him in the end. And he said that many times: 'Our blood is a cheap price to pay for our beliefs'," Mohammed al-Nimr told RT.  

Sheikh al-Nimr's execution caused an escalation of tensions in the Middle East. With massive protests raging across the region, one of them ended with the Saudi embassy being set ablaze in Tehran. The incident saw Riyadh's allies cut their diplomatic links with Iran. Iran accused Saudi Arabia of targeting its diplomatic mission in an air-strike, and severed its commercial ties with Riyadh.