DUBAI, Jan 26, (Agencies): Police in Bahrain carried out a dawn raid Thursday against supporters of a Shiite cleric on trial in the Sunniruled kingdom during which one man was shot and wounded, witnesses said.
Security forces intervened in the village of Diraz, west of the capital, where protesters have been staging sit-ins since authorities revoked Sheikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship in June. He is accused of sowing sectarian divisions in the Shiite-majority Gulf archipelago, home to the US Fifth Fleet.
A 21-year-old man was hospitalised with a bullet wound to his head after the raid, human rights campaigners said quoting a medical source. Dozens of residents in Diraz later staged a protest chanting slogans hostile to the authorities, witnesses said. The trial of the 75-year-old cleric on charges of illegal fundraising and money laundering opened in July. A new hearing is scheduled for Monday.
Qassim has also been accused by the interior ministry of “serving foreign interests” — an allusion to Shiite-dominated Iran. Bahrain has been rocked by unrest since security forces crushed Shiite-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister in 2011. The head of the Shiite opposition, Sheikh Ali Salman, was arrested in December 2014 and sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted of inciting hatred.
Meanwhile, security forces wearing black ski masks clashed with protesters near the home of a prominent Shiite cleric in Bahrain early Thursday, activists said. They said police fired birdshot and live ammunition in Diraz, home to Sheikh Isa Qassim. The cleric lost his citizenship in June over the Sunni-ruled government’s allegations that he fueled extremism and laundered money. The activists, who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal, said several people were wounded. Police did not immediately comment. A wide-scale crackdown on dissent is underway in Bahrain, a Shiite-majority island that hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet. The state-run Bahrain News Agency said late Wednesday that 20 people faced charges in three separate cases over attacks on suspected police informants. It said one victim “tortured” in Diraz later died.