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Bahrain police clash with supporters of Shiite cleric

Dubai, Dec 21, 2016 (AFP) – Police in Bahrain on Wednesday clashed with protesters supporting a top Shiite cleric who has been stripped of his citizenship and is on trial in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, activists said.

Security forces fired teargas canisters to disperse dozens of protesters outside the home of Sheikh Isa Qassim in the village of Diraz west of the capital, activists said.

Protesters have been staging a sit-in at Diraz since authorities revoked Qassim’s citizenship in June, after accusing him of sowing sectarian divisions in the country.

Images posted online on Wednesday showed protesters including women in traditional black robes brandishing posters of Qassim, whose trial on charges of illegal fundraising and money laundering opened in July.

Clashes also erupted in the nearby Shiite villages of Bani Jamrah, Bilad al-Qadim and Shahrakan, activists said.

The interior ministry said it made several arrests on Wednesday, but did not refer to the clashes.

Bahrain has been rocked by unrest since security forces crushed protests led by the Shiite majority demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister in 2011.

Despite repeated calls from their Western allies, Bahrain’s rulers have made no concessions to the Shiite opposition and have intensified a crackdown on critics.

The Gulf archipelago is home to the US Fifth Fleet.

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