Press Shia – A court in Bahrain on Thursday adjourned the trial of top Shiite cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim amid widespread protests against putting the senior cleric on trial.

Press Shia Agency – The tribunal held a session without the cleric's presence on Thursday for the fifth time, deciding to put off the trial until late January, Lebanon’s al-Ahed news agency reported.

 

On June 20, Bahraini authorities stripped Sheikh Qassim of his citizenship less than a week after the country’s Justice Ministry suspended main opposition group al-Wefaq and dissolved other opposition groups al-Risala Islamic Association and Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by Sheikh Qassim.

 

The United Nations and several human rights bodies have slammed the Bahraini regime for stripping Sheikh Qassim of his citizenship as well as its widespread crackdown on opposition and political activists.

 

In another development in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom on Thursday, three Shiite clerics, Sheikh Ali Naji, Sheikh Emad al-Shu’lah and Sheikh Munir al-Ma’touq were sentenced to one-year in prison on charges of participation in anti-regime demonstrations.

 

Bahraini authorities have either arrested or summoned tens of Shiite clerics over the past few months.

 

Bahraini Shiite clerics, in a statement titled “Those Barred from Praying” released on June 16, condemned the Manama regime’s efforts to restrict Shiite Muslims’ freedom of religion and belief, describing the situation in the country as “deplorable.”

 

The statement said that the Al Khalifa regime’s systematic suppression of the country's Shiite Muslims had reached its highest level ever, and members of the kingdom’s largest religious community felt insecure and faced threats of arrest and prosecution if they sought to observe their religious rituals, primarily Friday and other congregational prayers.

 

Anti-regime protesters have staged numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis since February 14, 2011, calling on the Al Khalifa regime to relinquish power.

 

Troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – themselves repressive Arab regimes – were deployed to the country in March that year to assist the Manama government in its crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy rallies.

 

Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in Manama's crackdown on the anti-regime activists.

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