Bahrain's crackdown on opposition must end, warns Amnesty International
Bahrain must end its "heightened crackdown" on the mostly Shia opposition, after around 60 clerics were summoned or arrested for participating in a protest, Amnesty International said.
The clerics were among scores of other demonstrators detained after taking part in a sit-in protesting the stripping of top Shia cleric Isa Qassim's Bahraini citizenship.
"The Bahraini authorities should halt immediately their heightened crackdown on peaceful critics and opponents," the group said.
Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since security forces crushed protests mostly from the island state's Shia majority demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister in 2011.
Amnesty said four of the arrested clerics were sentenced to between one and two years in prison following the sit-in in the village of Diraz and nine others remain in detention and are facing trial.
It said most of the 60 have been charged with "illegal gathering" or "inciting hatred of the regime" as well as taking part in the Diraz protest.
Qassim - who is considered the spiritual leader of the majority Shia community in the Sunni-dominated monarchy - went on trial in July on charges of illegal fundraising and money laundering, just weeks after authorities revoked his citizenship.
A statement by Shia clerics denounced the prosecutions including a two-year jail sentence on Wednesday against cleric Majid al-Mishaal, who heads the country's Shia clerical council.
"We urge authorities to stop inflaming the country with the fire of sectarian persecution," the clerics' statement said.