Bahrain strips top Shia cleric Isa Qassim of citizenship

Manama : Top shia cleric of Bahrain on Monday was stripped by the Sunni-ruled Bahrain of his citizenship, state media report.

An interior ministry statement accused Sheikh Isa Qassim of using his position to “serve foreign interests” and promote “sectarianism and violence,” BBC reported.

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The cleric, who holds the religious rank of Ayatollah, has backed protests led by the Shia community groups for greater civil and political rights.

Bahraini authorities said the offices of the Wefaq National Islamic Society have also been closed and the Society’s assets frozen. A lawyer for the group said the move came “out of the blue”.

A US diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks described Sheikh Isa Qassim as Wefaq’s spiritual leader. He is also regarded as the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s Shia community.

The US cable said the cleric had studied in the Iranian city of Qom in the 1990s and also spent time in the Iraqi city of Najaf, another centre of Shia learning.

Announcing the move to strip him of his Bahraini citizenship, the interior ministry said the cleric had been in continuous contact with “organisations and parties that are enemies of the kingdom”.