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Bahrainis Rally to Support Sheikh Isa Qassim

Bahraini people have staged another mass rally to express their support for distinguished Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim.

On Sunday morning, protesters took to the streets close to the residence of the 79-year-old cleric, who is the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s main opposition bloc al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, in the northwestern village of Diraz.

They carried national Bahraini flags and the portraits of Sheikh Qassim, chanting slogans in condemnation of the ruling Al Khalifah dynasty.

Similar demonstrations were held in the al-Bilad al-Qadeem suburb of Manama, Sitra Island, south of the capital, as well as the Sar residential area west of Manama late on Saturday.

Clashes erupted between Bahraini protesters and regime forces in Sitra, though there were no immediate reports of casualties and detentions.

Later on Sunday, Bahraini demonstrators are scheduled to hold another rally in support of Sheikh Qassim at 8 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) on Sunday in Diraz, situated about 12 kilometers (7 miles) west of the capital, Manama.

Last month, the public prosecutor in Bahrain said a cleric will go on trial in August on charges of “illegal fund collections and money laundering,” without providing an exact date.

The head of public prosecution, Ahmed al-Dosari, did not provide the name of the defendant, but a source familiar with the case said the cleric was Sheikh Qassim. The distinguished religious figure has vehemently dismissed the charges leveled against him.

Bahraini authorities stripped Sheikh Qassim of his nationality in late June. They later dissolved al-Wefaq as well as the Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by Sheikh Qassim, besides the opposition al-Risala Islamic Association.

Anti-regime protesters have staged numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis since February 14, 2011, calling on the Al Khalifah regime to relinquish power.

Troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — themselves repressive Arab regimes — were deployed to the country in March that year to assist the Manama government in its crackdown on peaceful and pro-democracy rallies.

Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in Manama’s crackdown on the anti-regime activists.


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A Bahraini court has delayed the verdict in the case of top Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, whose nationality was revoked last year. The court had earlier set March 14 as the date to issue its ruling on Sheikh Qassim's case, but it adjourned its decision until May 7, Arabic-language Bahrain Mirror news website reported on Tuesday. Qassim, the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s dissolved opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, was stripped of his nationality last June over accusations that he used his position to serve foreign interests and promote sectarianism and violence. The clergyman, who is in his mid-70s, has denied the allegations, refused to be assigned a lawyer and declined to attend any of the trial sessions. Qassim faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted. In addition to Sheikh Qassim, Bahraini authorities are also trying the cleric’s office head and staffer, Sheikh Hussein Mahrous and Mirza al-Dirazi, respectively. The trio are accused of laundering money and raising funds without licenses in connection with the practice of Khums - a religious tax which followers of Islam pay to their highest religious authorities for use in charities and other donations. On Monday, people held mass protests in more than 50 Bahraini villages, among them Qassim's hometown, Diraz. The rallies came after Bahraini clerics released a joint statement and called on all fellow citizens to show their solidarity with the cleric, stressing that the people's unwavering support for him is the “religious duty” of all Muslims. Anti-regime protesters have taken to the streets on an almost daily basis ever since the popular uprising began in Bahrain in February 2011. The demonstrators are demanding that the Al Khalifah family relinquish power and let a just system representing all Bahrainis be established. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others wounded or detained amid Manama’s crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country’s Shia majority....

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