Bahrain’s senior opposition cleric Sheikh Ali Salman says the prosecution of top Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim amounts to persecution and targeting of the entire Shia community in the country.
Salman, the secretary general of the country’s now-dissolved al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, made the remarks during a telephone call from prison as he himself has been in jail since 2014, Bahrain's LuaLua TV reported on Friday.
On May 3, senior clerics in Bahrain reiterated their support for Sheikh Qassim, and called on all members of the public to reject any court ruling against the distinguished cleric.
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.
Saudi deploys military reinforcements to Bahrain
Two days before the court pronounces its ruling against Sheikh Qassim, Saudi Arabia has deployed military reinforcements to Bahrain apparently to help the Bahraini regime repress potential anti-regime protests.
Bahraini sources said on Friday that the reinforcements entered Bahrain via King Fahd Causeway, which connects the two kingdoms.
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 spared no effort to clamp down on dissent and human rights activists. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to Bahrain to assist Manama in its crackdown.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown on anti-regime activists.