Bahrain’s February 14 Youth Coalition, a major opposition group, described defending Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of the country’s Shiite majority, a religious duty, calling for a massive rally in solidarity with the senior cleric.
Releasing a statement ahead of Sheikh Qassim’s planned trial, the February 14 Youth Coalition underlined the need for an end to the ruling Al Khalifa regime’s blockade on the village of Diraz, where the house of the Shiite cleric is located.
It also called for a massive rally in the village’s al-Fida Square in support of Sheikh Qassim.
The opposition group further warned against the consequences of the planned trial for the country and for the region.
It went on to warn the regime and its allies – Saudi Arabia, Britain and the US – against any attempt to harm Sheikh Qassim.
The statement came after a number of senior Bahraini clerics warned the Manama regime about its decision to try Sheikh Qassim, saying any verdict issued against him will have no legal value.
They also emphasized that the religious stance on the need for protecting Sheikh Qassim is still in place and the people will defend him to death.
The Manama regime announced on June 20, 2016, that it had revoked the citizenship of Sheikh Qassim. The regime later said it would put the senior cleric on trial on charges of “illegal fund collections, money laundering and helping terrorism”.
In March this year, Manama postponed the trial of Sheikh Qassim as nationwide rallies were held in solidarity with the top cleric.
The trial session of Sheikh Qassim had been slated for March 14 but was adjourned until May 7.
Some sources have said that Manama plans to send Sheikh Qassim to exile in Turkey in a bid to ease tensions.
Bahrain has been witnessing almost daily protests against the ruling Al Khalifa dynasty since early 2011, with Manama using heavy-handed measures in an attempt to crush the demonstrations.
Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations.
Amnesty International and many other international rights organizations have frequently censured the Bahraini regime for the rampant human rights abuses against opposition groups and anti-regime protesters.