Health of Bahrain’s Top Shiite Cleric Worsens

Health of Bahrain’s Top Shiite Cleric Worsens

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28bahrain1-master768For months, the most important cleric among Bahrain’s Shiite majority has stayed home, threatened with deportation by the kingdom’s ruling Sunni minority under a 2016 order revoking his citizenship.

Simmering political tensions in Bahrain over that order escalated abruptly on Monday with news that the cleric, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, is in the midst of a health crisis.

Human rights activists said Ayatollah Qassim, the spiritual voice of Bahrain’s Shiites, required urgent hospitalization for an emergency operation to repair a hernia.

It was unclear, however, if that will happen. His supporters say the deportation order has effectively kept the cleric under house arrest.

“There are fears he will be deported if he leaves his home,” said the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, a British-based organization that has been monitoring the events in Bahrain.

June 2016 by the Interior Ministry, which accused him of encouraging divisiveness and revoked his citizenship.

He is one of more than 480 people stripped of Bahraini citizenship since 2012, a punishment that Human Rights Watch has described as a tactic of political repression.

The cleric’s village, Duraz, has been under what human rights activists have called a continuous police blockade since the Interior Ministry’s order against him. The Bahrain Embassy statement said security measures were meant to increase public safety.

Last May, the cleric was given a one-year suspended sentence on charges of money laundering, which his supporters called a politically motivated, sham prosecution. Anger over how the cleric had been treated exploded in deadly protests outside his home.

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