Press Shia Agency – A human rights group says the health condition of Bahrain’s top Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, who has been under a virtual house arrest since last year, has dramatically deteriorated in recent days, warning that he is in urgent need of medical treatment.
Press Shia Agency – According to a statement by the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) on Monday, physicians who had visited the spiritual leader at his home in the northwestern village of Diraz a day earlier had diagnosed him to be suffering from a “groin hernia requiring an emergency operation.”
“Such an operation carries a high mortality risk at Sheikh Isa Qassim´s age. He also suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes and a form of heart disease,” further said BIRD in its statement. Sheikh Qassim is believed to be in his late 70s.
Bahraini activists also reported that Sheikh Qassim was suffering constant pain and excreting blood.
Meanwhile, former deputy of the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Ali al-Aswad, has said in a statement that the Manama regime was the primary party responsible for Sheikh Qassim’s health.
“Whoever decides to put Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim under house arrest is the one who will bear this responsibility henceforth,” Aswad added, urging all Bahrainis to rally in support of the spiritual leader.
Reports said that on Sunday, Bahraini security forces completely surrounded Sheikh Qassim’s house.
On June 14, Bahrain’s so-called administrative court ordered the dissolution of the country’s al-Wefaq National Islamic Society and the seizure of its funds after the Bahraini Justice Ministry had suspended the opposition group’s activities. Al-Wefaq is the country’s main Shia opposition group and has been spiritually led by Sheikh Qassim.
A week later, the top cleric faced expulsion from Bahrain after authorities revoked his citizenship, accusing him of “illegal fund collections, money laundering and helping terrorism.” They further accused him of using his position to “serve foreign interests” and promote “sectarianism and violence.” He has strongly rejected all the allegations.
Bahraini authorities later dissolved the Islamic Enlightenment Institution (Tawiya), founded by Sheikh Qassim, in addition to the opposition al-Risala Islamic Association.
Ever since, the public has been staging day-to-day sit-ins in front of his house in Diraz and the government has placed the village under a siege, killing a number of people after attacking the demonstrations in several occasions.
A trial session for Sheikh Qassim has been postponed several times amid fears of a surge in popular outrage. However, on May 21, a Bahraini court convicted Sheikh Qassim of illegal collection of funds and money laundering and sentenced him to one year in jail suspended for three years.
It also ordered him to pay $265,266 in fines. The court ruling sparked widespread demonstrations across the kingdom.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom in mid-February 2011.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.
Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahraini regime in its crackdown on dissent.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.
On March 5, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3.