Bahraini authorities have started handing down prison sentences to those holding sit-ins in protest at the regime's decision to revoke the citizenship of prominent Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim.
Two protesters were sentenced to one year of imprisonment each last week for attending protests in the restive Diraz village, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said on Friday.
The first verdict was pronounced on August 19, when Shia cleric Sheikh Ali Humeidan was sentenced to jail. The second verdict was issued three days later when Shia eulogist Abdullah Subah was convicted on charges of “holding unlawful gatherings” in Diraz.
The center said Shia clerics Sheikh Ali Naji also known as al-Himli, Sheikh Mounir al-Maatouk, and Sheikh Imad al-Shaala, together with eulogist Mullah Habib al-Dirazi are facing trial on similar charges.
The center strongly condemned the persecution of peaceful protesters in Diraz, and the Al Khalifah regime’s violation of public right to peaceful gathering.
The BCHR further expressed concerns over the safety of demonstrators protesting the regime’s decision to strip Sheikh Qassim of citizenship.
The BCHR called upon the ruling Al Khalifah regime to immediately release all those detained for holding peaceful gatherings and drop charges brought against them.
It also urged Bahraini rulers to end restrictions on holding peaceful demonstrations, and allow protesters to rally without any fear of interrogation, arrest or any form of reprisal.
Bahraini authorities revoked Sheikh Qassim’s citizenship in late June. They later dissolved the main opposition bloc al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, as well as the Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by the 79-year-old cleric, besides another opposition movement, the al-Risala Islamic Association.
Since February 14, 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis, calling on the Al Khalifah family to relinquish power.
Troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been deployed to the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protests.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the Bahraini crackdown on the anti-regime activists.