Activists: Bahrain Shiite cleric under house arrest is ill
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Activists said Monday that a prominent Shiite cleric who has been under house arrest in Bahrain after having his citizenship stripped is seriously ill.
Doctors visited Sheikh Isa Qassim on Sunday at his home in Diraz, a Bahraini town that’s been surrounded by police for over a year, they said.
Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, another Shiite cleric, told The Associated Press on Monday the 80-year-old Sheikh Isa “is in constant pain” and requires emergency surgery for a hernia.
Responding to questions from the AP, Fahad al-Binali of Bahrain’s Embassy in London said Sheikh Isa received medical attention from a doctor and that his house arrest “has no bearing on his access to health care neither does his citizenship revocation.”
However, Sheikh Isa could be deported at any time after authorities stripped his citizenship last June over accusations that he fueled extremism and laundered money. His supporters deny the allegations.
Al-Binali said Sheikh Isa’s son declined the offer of an ambulance to take the cleric to a hospital. He also said the police cordon around Diraz remains “unchanged, in response to requests by community leaders... to increase safety for local residents and ensure public order.”
Followers of Sheikh Isa have held a sit-in around his home for months. A raid in May there saw police arrest 286 people in an assault that killed at least five demonstrators and wounded others.
Bahrain, a predominantly Shiite island off the coast of Saudi Arabia, is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. The nation is ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa family, which continues a crackdown on all dissent, imprisoning or forcing politicians and activists into exile.
Amid the crackdown, local Shiite militant groups have carried out several attacks on security forces.
Independent news gathering there also has grown more difficult, with the government refusing to accredit two AP reporters and others.