Bahraini police opened fire Tuesday on a protest by supporters of a top Shiite cleric, with at least one demonstrator reported martyred in the latest unrest to hit the Persian Gulf state.
The Britain-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) announced the “tragic death of a peaceful protester in the crackdown” in Diraz, the scene of a long-running sit-in outside the home of prominent cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim.
Eyewitnesses said multiple civilians were wounded when police opened fire at the demonstrators.
Police arrested several people wanted by the authorities, the interior ministry said.
Ayatollah Qassim is considered the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s majority Shiite community.
Bahrain’s interior ministry said Tuesday it had “launched a security operation in the village of Diraz to preserve security and civil order as the site is a safe haven for fugitives.”
The latest developments came after a Bahraini court, in a politically motivated move on Sunday, announced its verdict against Sheikh Qassim, sentencing him to one year in prison.
According to the ruling, Sheikh Qassim’s properties worth three million Bahraini dinars (near $8 million) have been confiscated. The cleric was also sentenced to pay a fine of 1,000 Bahraini dinars (about $2,650).
According to local reports, Sheikh Qassim’s prison sentence has been suspended for three years.
The verdict came several hours after Bahraini people from all walks of life staged anti-regime protests in various cities across the Persian Gulf country to voice their support for Sheikh Qassim.
During the rallies, the Bahraini citizens once again underlined that they would defend the prominent cleric to death.
Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, 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.