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Bahrain strips top Shia cleric of citizenship

Bahrain strips top Shia cleric of citizenship

DUBAI: Bahrain has stripped the spiritual leader of the kingdom’s Shia community of his citizenship, state news agency BNA reported on Monday, prompting protest by thousands outside his home amid warnings of unrest.

The move against Ayatollah Isa Qassim comes less than a week after a court ordered Bahrain’s main opposition al-Wefaq group closed, accusing it of fomenting sectarian unrest.

BNA, quoting an interior ministry statement, said Qassim had been trying to divide Bahraini society, encourage youths to violate the constitution and promote a sectarian environment in the country.

“Based on that, the Bahraini citizenship had been dropped from Isa Ahmed Qassim, who since he acquired Bahraini citizenship had sought to form organisations that follow foreign religious and political reference,” the news agency said.

Witnesses said a crowd estimated at 3,000-4,000 people gathered outside Qassim’s house in the village of Diraz, chanting anti-government slogans.

The powerful Lebanese group Hezbollah called Bahrain’s decision “extremely dangerous” and warned it would bring severe consequences to the ruling system.

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned Bahrain’s government of an armed struggle. “The Al Khalifa (rulers of Bahrain) surely know their aggression against Sheikh Isa Qassim is a red line crossing [which] would set Bahrain and the whole region on fire, and it would leave no choice for people but to resort to armed resistance,” said Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, the elite arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, in a statement published by Fars news agency.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2016

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