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Bahrain’s treatment of clerics is extremely harsh, report says

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Shia Bahraini clerics attend a protest against the revocation of the citizenship of top cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim (portrait) on June 20, 2016, near Qassim's house in the village of Diraz, west of Manama. (AFP photo)

A new report has been released documenting the harsh treatment of the Shia Muslim clerics in Bahrain since an uprising began in the country in early 2011.

The report, published Saturday by the Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, a rights campaigning group based in Britain, said the Bahraini regime had committed a total of 313 cases of rights abuse against Shia clerics since 2011.

The report studied court orders, government decrees and other actions by police and security forces against the clerics between 2011 and 2017, saying clerics in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain have been subject to various forms of rights violations including death sentences, life imprisonment, citizenship revocation, enforced deportation, arbitrary detention and other harsh prison sentences.

It said the Shia scholars, who have a huge base of public support in Bahrain, have badly suffered from humiliation and physical torture as a result of government treatment.

The report said a total of 156 scholars had been summoned only over the content of their sermons and speeches, which Manama deemed inappropriate. It said Manama’s widespread use of arbitrary arrests had affected 89 clerics in the seven-year period, while 50 clerics had received harsh sentences including death penalty, life in prison, citizenship revocation or payment of huge fines. Most of those sentenced have had no access to proper judicial services, it said.

Bahrain is dominated by Shias but ruled by a minority Sunni family. Since the beginning of protests in March 2011, Shia clerics have reiterated their support for peaceful gatherings while condemning any form of violence.   

The regime, however, has hardly tolerated any form of dissent while blaming the clerics, some of them seen as a source of emulation, for unrest.

The top Shia cleric in the island, Sheikh Isa Qassim, has been revoked of his citizenship rights while Sheikh Ali Salman, the most senior opposition leader, also a revered cleric, remains behind bars like many other activists.

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