Detained Bahraini Shia cleric 'needs emergency surgery'

Detained Bahraini Shia cleric 'needs emergency surgery'
Sheikh Isa Qassim, a prominent Bahraini Shia cleric who is under house arrest in the Gulf kingdom, is in serious pain and needs emergency surgery, activists said.
2 min read
27 November, 2017
The 80-year-old Sheikh Isa is under house arrest in Bahrain [AFP]

A prominent Shia cleric who has been under house arrest in Bahrain after having his citizenship stripped is seriously ill, activists said.

Sheikh Isa Qassim was visited by doctors at his home in Diraz on Sunday, a Bahraini town that’s been surrounded by police for over a year.

The 80-year-old Sheikh Isa “is in constant pain” and requires emergency surgery for a hernia, Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, another Shia cleric, told AP.

Bahrain’s government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sheikh Isa could be deported at any time after authorities stripped his citizenship last June over accusations that he fuelled extremism and laundered money, but his supporters deny the allegations against him.

The Shia majority in Bahrain, which has been ruled by the al-Khalifa dynasty for more than two centuries, has long complained of marginalisation and the country has been rocked by sporadic unrest since 2011.

Authorities have since tightened their grip on dissent, jailing hundreds of protesters and stripping a string of high-profile activists and clerics of citizenship. 

Earlier this month, Bahrain charged jailed Shia opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman with "spying" for Qatar, state prosecutors said, after allegations he whipped up protests at Doha's request.

The investigation into purported links between Salman and Qatar was first launched in August, after a quartet of Arab countries, including Bahrain, accused their gas-rich neighbour of supporting terrorism and close relations with Iran – allegations Doha vehemently denies.

State-run Bahrain Television aired a report which claimed that neighbouring Qatar was behind anti-government protests that have shaken the tiny kingdom for the past six years.

It alleged that Qatar's former premier Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani contacted Salman – then head of Bahrain's largest opposition group, Al-Wefaq – in 2011 and asked him to urge protesters to flood the streets and ramp up pressure on the state.

Salman has been behind bars since 2014 serving a nine-year sentence for allegedly inciting hatred.

Al-Wefaq was the largest group in parliament before its lawmakers resigned en masse in protest at the crushing of Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations in 2011 calling for an elected government.

The Shia Muslim movement has called for Sunni-ruled Bahrain to become a constitutional monarchy.