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Bahraini forces, protesters clash ahead of Nimr execution anniv.

28 December 2016 22:40

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Bahraini regime forces and dozens of protesters have engaged in skirmishes ahead of the first execution anniversary of prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr by Riyadh.

The demonstrators took to the streets in the village of al-Eker, south of the capital Manama, on Tuesday evening to voice their outrage at the execution of the religious figure, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime’s policies.

Violence broke out when regime forces intervened and fired stun grenades as well as tear gas canisters at the protesting crowd. Several demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails at regime forces in return.

There were no reports of casualties and arrests.

Sheikh Nimr had been arrested in 2012 in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s Shia-majority Eastern Province, which was the scene of peaceful anti-regime demonstrations at the time.

He had been charged with instigating unrest and undermining the kingdom’s security. He had rejected the charges as baseless and unfounded.

In 2014, a Saudi court sentenced the clergyman to death, provoking widespread global condemnations. Back then, the UK-based rights body Amnesty International called the sentence “appalling,” saying the verdict should be quashed since it was politically motivated.

Separately, Bahraini regime forces were deployed on Tuesday outside the residence of prominent Bahraini Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim, who has been stripped of his nationality and summoned to attend a court hearing.

The protesters came together at Fada Square in the northwestern village of Diraz, situated about 12 kilometers west of the capital Manama, to express their strong support for the 79-year-old cleric.

Bahraini regime forces, however, raided the site and fired stun grenades to break up the protest.

Early on Wednesday, scores of people gathered at the same place following dawn prayers.

On June 20, Bahraini authorities stripped Sheikh Qassim, who is the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s dissolved opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, of his nationality.

They later dissolved the Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by the clergyman, in addition to the opposition al-Risala Islamic Association.

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.

Manama has gone to lengths to clamp down on the dissent and rights activists. 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.

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