Bahrainis hold nationwide rallies in support of top Shia cleric

January 6, 2017 5:30 pm

Bahrainis hold a demonstration in solidarity with Sheikh Isa Qassem in his native village of Diraz near the capital Manama, January 6, 2017

Thousands of Bahrainis have marched throughout the kingdom for a second straight day in protest at a push by the ruling Al Khalifa regime to put prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Issa Qassim on trial.
Late on Thursday, the demonstrators amassed on al-Fada’ Square in the northwestern village of Diraz, where the cleric’s home is located, the London-based Bahraini opposition television network Lualua reported.
The protest rally came hours after the Bahraini judiciary once again postponed the trial of the top cleric until the end of this month.
In western , the villages of Sanabis, Bouri, Abou-Sabih and Aali also witnessed similar protests.
The protesters were, however, pelted with tear gas canisters and pushed back by regime forces at a housing estate in western Manama.
Bahraini people had also come out in their thousands countrywide in the early hours of Thursday, unified by the same cause to condemn the ruling Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown on opposition
Sheikh Qassim is the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s dissolved opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq National Islamic .

Bahrainis rally in support of imprisoned Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassem in his native village of Diraz near the capital, Manama, January 6, 2017.

On June 20, 2016, Bahraini authorities stripped Qassem of his citizenship over accusations that he used his position to serve foreign interests and promote “sectarianism” and “violence.” He has denied the allegations.
The religious leader has been incarcerated ever since. The judicial authorities summon him to periodical trials, which they keep postponing on the grounds that they have not arrived at a definitive verdict concerning his charges.
Sheikh Qassim’s native village has also been under siege by regime forces for some six months.
On Thursday, al-Wefaq Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Hussein al-Daihi on criticized the international community for keeping silent on the Diraz blockade and Al Khalifah atrocities.
“This siege is the longest punishment in the history of our region,” said Daihi, calling for the formation of a fact-finding committee regarding the case.
Earlier in the day, the state-run Bahrain Agency reported that Manama has restored the right to arrest human rights campaigners and political dissidents to intelligence agents in yet another repressive measure against opposition.
Since mid-February 2011, Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the region, has been witnessing almost daily protests demanding that the ruling family relinquish power.
The Al Khalifah regime is engaged in a harsh crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country’s Shia majority. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the island country.
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