Top Bahraini cleric’s health condition critical, rights group warns

Tasnim – A Bahraini human rights organization voiced deep concern about the deteriorating health condition of Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of the Persian Gulf country’s Shiite majority, who has been under house arrest for nearly 400 days.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) , in a statement, said that at 9:35 p.m. on Sunday (local time), Sheikh Qassim was transferred to a hospital due to the deterioration of his physical condition, local reports said.

The initial diagnosis shows that he is unable to move and walk due to acute problems with his hip and thigh, according to the statement.

Local sources also said that security forces arrested Sheikh Qassim’s son and son-in-law while accompanying the ambulance and that they are still in custody at the police station.

Bahraini security forces have extensively surrounded the house of Sheikh Qassim in Diraz, west of Manama, and placed him under house arrest for about 400 days ago.

The cleric was stripped of his citizenship in June 2016 over accusations that he had used his position to serve foreign interests and promote sectarianism and violence. The cleric was handed a suspended one-year prison term and ordered to pay a huge fine.

The ruling against the prominent Shiite cleric also sparked widespread protests and condemnations in Bahrain and around the world.

Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has been witnessing almost daily protests against the ruling Al Khalifa dynasty since early 2011, with Manama using heavy-handed measures in an attempt to crush the demonstrations.

Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations.