Bahraini Shia cleric gets one-year suspended jail term

Bahraini Shia cleric gets one-year suspended jail term
A Bahraini court has convicted a spiritual Shia leader of collecting funds illegally and money laundering, sentencing him to one year in jail suspended for three years, local media reported.
2 min read
Qassim was convicted of illegal fundraising and money laundering [AFP]

A Bahraini court on Sunday sentenced revered Shia cleric Isa Qassim to a suspended one-year jail term for illegal fundraising and money laundering, a judicial source said.

The criminal court handed down the same verdict to two of the cleric's aides, Sheikh Hussein Mahrus and Mirza al-Obaidli, the source said, adding the sentences were suspended for three years.

The prosecution also announced the sentences without naming Qassim, adding they were each fined 100,000 dinars ($265,140) and that the court ordered the confiscation of the funds they raised.

It said in a statement carried by the BNA state news agency that it was considering appealing the sentence.

Qassim, 76, remains at his residence in the village of Diraz, outside Manama, where supporters have held a sit-in since June when he was stripped of his citizenship.

At the time, authorities accused him of abusing his position as a cleric to "serve foreign interests and promote... sectarianism and violence".

Hundreds of Shias protested on Saturday in villages near the capital, brandishing posters of Qassim ahead of the verdict, witnesses said.

The cleric, who is considered the spiritual leader of the Shia majority community of Bahrain, went on trial in July.

The attorney general said at the time that he had deposited more than $10 million in his private bank account.

He allegedly kept other amounts in cash to avoid legal controls, the attorney general said, accusing Qassim also of purchasing properties worth more than one million dinars ($2.65 million) in an attempt to legitimise the funds.

The two other defendants are Sheikh Hussein Mahrus and Mirza al-Obaidli.

Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since security forces crushed Shia-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister in 2011.

Despite repeated calls from their Western allies, Bahrain's rulers have made no concessions to the Shia opposition and have intensified a crackdown on critics.

The strategic Gulf kingdom is a key regional ally of the US and serves as home for its Fifth Fleet.