Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 June 2019

Bahrain Shiite cleric gets suspended jail term

The 76-year-old Isa Qassim remains at his residence in the village of Diraz, outside Manama, where supporters have held a sit-in since June when he was stripped of his citizenship.

A Bahraini court on Sunday sentenced a prominent Shiite cleric Isa Qassim to a suspended one-year jail term for illegal fundraising and money laundering.

The criminal court handed down the same verdict to two of the cleric’s aides, Sheikh Hussein Mahrus and Mirza Al Obaidli, a judicial source said, adding the sentences were suspended for three years.

The prosecution also announced the sentences without naming Qassim, adding they were each fined 100,000 dinars (Dh974,800) and that the court ordered the confiscation of the funds they raised.

Qassim, 76, remains at his residence in the village of Diraz, outside Manama, where supporters have held a sit-in since June when he was stripped of his citizenship.

At the time, authorities accused him of abusing his position as a cleric to “serve foreign interests and promote ... sectarianism and violence”.

Hundreds of Shiites protested on Saturday in villages near the capital, brandishing posters of Qassim ahead of the verdict, witnesses said.

The cleric, who is considered the spiritual leader of the Shiite majority community of Bahrain, went on trial in July.

The attorney general said at the time that he had deposited more than $10 million (Dh36.7m) in his private bank account.

He allegedly kept other amounts in cash to avoid legal controls, the attorney general said, accusing Qassim of purchasing properties worth more than one million dinars in an attempt to legitimise the funds.

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

* Agence France-Presse

Updated: May 21, 2017 04:00 AM

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