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Bahrainis stage demonstrations ahead of top cleric’s trial

23 November 2016 14:58

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Hundreds of people have taken to the streets across Bahrain to express solidarity with prominent Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Issa Qassim who is to return to the dock on Wednesday for trial.  

Protesters rallied in the village of Diraz west of the capital Manama, as well as Daih and Akr to reiterate their support for the 79-year-old cleric, and denounce charges against him.

They carried placards in condemnation of the trial, saying it amounts to the violation of the basic rights of all Shia Muslims in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.

Skirmishes broke out in Akr, where regime forces fired tear gas as well as rubber-coated bullets to disperse the crowd. There were no immediate reports of casualties and arrests.

The Bahraini regime has pressed charges of “illegal fund collections, money laundering and helping terrorism” against Sheikh Qassim who has strongly rejected them.

On June 20, Bahraini authorities stripped the clergyman of his citizenship. He is the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s banned opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society.

Bahraini authorities later ordered the dissolution of al-Wefaq, al-Risala Islamic Association and Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by Sheikh Qassim.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom on February 14, 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to Bahrain to assist the Manama government in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown on anti-regime activists.

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