‘Saudi fears Sheikh Qassim trial backlash’
Shabbir Hassanally, an activist and Middle East expert, believes the prosecution of top Bahraini Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, is “strategically a very big mistake,” adding that Saudi Arabia is aware that such a move will create problems in Bahrain, otherwise Riyadh would not have sent forces “to come and try to maintain law and order” in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.
“This is quite a concerning development because first of all you have the Saudi client regime of Al Khalifah who have been postponing this kangaroo court trial for Sheikh Isa Qassim and now I believe that they are going to do the trial tomorrow and the Saudis are very concerned because many people have said publicly and privately to Al Khalifah and also the Al Saud that Sheikh Isa is a red line, do not cross this red line,” Hassanally told PressTV in an interview on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Barry Grossman, an international lawyer and activist, says the deployment of Saudi military reinforcements to Bahrain leaves no doubt about how the Al Khalifah regime manages to remain in power while marginalizing the nations’ Shia Muslim majority.
“Therefore, it is not surprising that the late trial of Bahrain’s leading Shia scholar is now scheduled to go ahead and is being used as a pretense for Saudi military forces armed with US weapons, trained by US forces to once again move into Bahrain … without even having the slightest concern about repercussions from the international community or the United States,” Grossman told PressTV in an interview on Saturday.
On June 20, 2016, Bahraini authorities stripped Sheikh Qassim of his nationality. They later dissolved the Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by the clergyman, in addition to the opposition al-Risala Islamic Association.
The Manama regime has pressed charges of “illegal fund collections, money laundering and helping terrorism” against Sheikh Qassim, who has strongly denied them. International rights groups have slammed the charges as baseless and politically motivated.
A trial session had been scheduled for the senior cleric on March 14 but was postponed to May 7 amid fears of a surge in popular outrage.