Thousands of Bahrainis protest dissident Shia cleric's trial

Thousands of Bahrainis protest dissident Shia cleric's trial
Thousands of Bahrainis dressed in shrouds took to the streets on the eve of prominent Shia cleric's trial as protests continue against Sunni-ruled authorities' intensifying crackdown on dissent.
2 min read
30 January, 2017
Men and women wear shrouds in Bahrain as they protest Sheikh Isa Qassim's trial [Twitter]

Thousands of people in Bahrain have flooded the streets to protest the trial of a leading Shia cleric, as authorities denounce the shooting of a police officer in a Shia village as a "terrorist" act.

Men and women dressed in shrouds  - symbolising they were willing to die for their cause - demonstrated on Sunday on the eve of the trial of Sheikh Isa Qassim, the country's top Shia cleric and the spiritual leader of its largest opposition group al-Wefaq.

Bahraini authorities accuse the 75-year-old cleric of collecting funds illegally and money laundering. 

In June he was stripped of his citizenship after being accused of playing a key role in creating an "extremist" sectarian atmosphere and dividing Bahraini society.

One man was wounded on Thursday after security forces clashed with protesters staging sit-ins in support of the cleric in his home village of Diraz.

Earlier on Sunday a police officer was shot dead in the Shia village of Bilad al-Qadim, the interior ministry said, denouncing what it called a "terrorist" attack.

The ministry did not say when Lieutenant Hisham al-Hammadi was killed, nor did it specify the circumstances surrounding his death.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain is the middle of a crackdown on dissent at a level unseen since its 2011 uprising, in which the island's Shia majority called for greater political rights from the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

Protesters still frequently clash with police in Shia villages outside the capital, with rights groups repeatedly raising concern over the response of the authorities.

Hundreds of Shia Muslims have been arrested and put on trial.

Agencies contributed to this report.