Bahrain king responsible for any harm on Sheikh Qassim: Amal party

Bahrainis attend a protest against the revocation of the citizenship of top Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim (portrait), on June 20, 2016, near Qassim’s house in the village of Diraz. (Photo by AFP)

Bahrain's Islamic Action Society opposition party says Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, the king of the Persian Gulf's island country, is personally responsible for any harm, whatsoever, inflicted by regime forces on Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of Bahrain's Shia majority.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the society, also referred to as Amal Party, strongly denounced the Al Khalifah regime for its brutal attack on protesters across the country, particularly in Diraz village, in which security forces "obnoxiously" stormed Sheikh Isa Qassim's house, arresting dozens of people.

"Insulting people and their blood based on unfounded allegations is religiously, socially and politically unacceptable, as attempts to undermine the authority of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim and attacking on him after issuing a fallacious court verdict against him is absolutely unacceptable," the statement said.

It came as Bahraini regime forces launched a full-scale attack on Diraz, the hometown of the top Shia cleric, killing at least two protesters and wounding some two dozen others while trying to disperse his supporters with birdshots and tear gas canisters. At least seven people were reported to be critically injured.

According to Bahrain's Interior Ministry, so far 50 people have been arrested in the village during ongoing clashes between regime forces and protesters. Sheikh Qassim's house is already besieged by two military convoys.

The unrest comes amid Bahraini clerics’ call on all people to hold protests across the kingdom in response to a one-year prison term issued against the senior cleric.

On Sunday, a Bahraini court convicted Sheikh Qassim of illegal collection of funds and money laundering and sentenced him to one year in jail suspended for three years. It also ordered him to pay $265,266 in fines. The court ruling sparked widespread demonstrations across the country.

Bahraini police vans in Diraz village confront a rally of protesters demonstrating against a court verdict against Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of Bahrain's Shia majority, May 23, 2017.

Qassim also faces expulsion from the kingdom after authorities revoked his citizenship last year. His defense lawyers refused to attend hearings, which they saw as an attack on the country's Shia Muslims.

"The regime's bet on foreign regimes to protect it, especially the US and UK, is a losing bet because these regimes are just looking for their interests and have come to the region only to collect money," Amal's statement said.

Zia al-Bahrani, a top leader of Bahrain's opposition February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition, said the Al Khalifah regime, emboldened by US President Donald Trump's recent visit to Saudi Arabia, was aided by troops from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan to launch an offensive on Diraz.

Separately, the former head of the Bahraini Forum for Human Rights, Youssef Rabih, said regime forces had encircled Sheikh Qassim's house with barbed wire fences, practically putting him in a compulsory stay at his residence.

He added that Manama had ventured to impose those measures with a green light it had received from Washington during the so-called Arabic Islamic American Summit held over the weekend in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Since 2011, Bahrain has been the scene of peaceful anti-regime protests against the systematic abuse of the Shia population and discrimination against them. The Bahraini regime has responded to the protests with excessive and lethal force, which has drawn international criticism.

Bahrain's perennial rulers are allies of the West, including the United States, which has its Fifth Fleet based in the tiny Persian Gulf country.   


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