A court in Bahrain has postponed until later this year the trial of distinguished Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim, whom the ruling Al Khalifah regime has stripped of citizenship.
On Monday, the High Criminal Court adjourned the trial of the 77-year-old clergyman, who is the spiritual leader of the country’s dissolved opposition bloc, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, until March 14 and rejected calls for his acquittal.
The Public Prosecutor demanded capital punishment for Sheikh Qassim, his office staffer Mirza al-Dirazi and al-Wefaq’s Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Hussein al-Daihi.
However, the cleric’s defense lawyer, appointed by Bahrain’s Ministry of Justice, asked for the halt of the court procedure and the referral of the case to the Constitutional Court, Arabic-language Bahrain Mirror news website reported.
Throughout his trials, Sheikh Qassim has neither attended court hearings nor delegated a lawyer to defend him.
Bahraini authorities stripped the cleric of his citizenship on June 20, 2016. They later dissolved the Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by him, 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.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom in mid-February 2011.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.
Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain 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.