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Bahrain's top cleric calls for immediate release of political prisoners

Bahrain’s leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim (File photo by Reuters)

Bahrain’s leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim has called on the tiny Persian Gulf country’s authorities to immediately release political prisoners because such an issue “cannot be postponed” until the Bahraini parliament is ready.

In a statement carried by Bahrain Mirror, the top cleric criticized human rights violations of the Bahraini regime, saying the realization of such rights cannot be "postponed or delayed until the parliament gets prepared and an agreed-upon constitution [is reached].”

He maintained that to mend the political relationship between the Bahraini people and the government, “there must be a fair electoral law agreed upon by the government and the opposition, a parliament elected in a free popular election, and an agreed-upon constitution.”

Sheikh Qassim added that restoring Bahrainis’ rights, preparing the electoral law, holding parliamentary elections and agreeing on the constitution must begin quickly and simultaneously.

On April 19, the prominent cleric said drawing up a new constitution was the only way out of the political crisis in the kingdom, urging the Manama regime to pursue an agreement with the Bahraini opposition instead of increasingly suppressing the dissidents.

Demonstrations in Bahrain have been held on a regular basis ever since a popular uprising began in mid-February 2011.

The participants demand that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama, however, has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent.

Bahrain has come under pressure from human rights organizations over prison conditions, including overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of medical care.

Since the March outbreak of the coronavirus at the Jau prison, families of the Bahraini prisoners have been holding protests demanding the release of their loved ones and better conditions.

There was a violent confrontation between guards and prisoners in April after prisoners protested against their conditions.

Early this month, Bahrain’s main opposition group renewed its call for the immediate release of political inmates being kept behind bars at detention centers across the country.

In a statement on July 1, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society stressed that the right to free expression and freedom of peaceful assembly form the backbone of public demands.

The movement blamed the ruling Al Khalifah regime’s extremism, repressive measures and use of violence against the pro-democracy campaign in the country for the worsening political crisis.

Al-Wefaq said, “The rift between the Manama regime and the Bahraini nation is fairly deep. The regime does not have any connection with people other than through security institutions, which employ excessive force, violence, threats and arbitrary measures.”

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