Al Khalifa Playing with Fire

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SHAFAQNA-  Bahrain’s Center for Human Rights and Democracy warned about the deteriorating health conditions of the country’s top Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim.

In a statement, the center criticized the ruling Al Khalifa regime for holding the prominent cleric under house arrest, demanding that conditions should be provided for immediate treatment of Sheikh Qassim

What Bahraini king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is doing is playing with fire, the statement warned.

Amnesty International has also called on Manama to provide Sheikh Qassim with access to medical treatment.

Following the release of reports about Sheikh Qassim’s failing health on Monday, Shia clerics across the island nation urged all people to demonstrate in support of the spiritual leader. Bahraini activists revealed that Sheikh Qassim was suffering from constant pain and excreting blood.

On June 14, Bahrain’s so-called administrative court ordered the dissolution of the country’s al-Wefaq National Islamic Society and the seizure of its funds after the Bahraini Justice Ministry had suspended the opposition group’s activities. Al-Wefaq is the country’s main Shia opposition group and has been spiritually led by Sheikh Qassim.

A week later, the top cleric faced expulsion from Bahrain after authorities revoked his citizenship, accusing him of “illegal fund collections, money laundering and helping terrorism.” They further accused him of using his position to “serve foreign interests” and promote “sectarianism and violence.” He has strongly rejected all the allegations.

Bahraini authorities later dissolved the Islamic Enlightenment Institution (Tawiya), founded by Sheikh Qassim, in addition to the opposition al-Risala Islamic Association.

Ever since, the public has been staging day-to-day sit-ins in front of his house in the cleric’s home-village of Diraz and the government has placed the village under a siege, killing a number of people after attacking the demonstrations in several occasions.

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 Khalifa 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 Bahraini regime in its crackdown on dissent.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifa regime’s crackdown.

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