Amnesty International has called on the Bahraini regime to suspend its heavy-handed crackdown on peaceful critics and opposition figures as Manama keeps up its policy of repression.
“The Bahraini authorities should halt immediately their heightened crackdown on peaceful critics and opponents,” said the UK-based rights group said in a statement published on Thursday.
Over the past two months, scores of protesters and at least 60 Shia clerics have been summoned and arrested in connection with sit-ins held in the village of Diraz, home to leading Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim.
Sheikh Qassim is the spiritual leader of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain’s main opposition group which has recently been dissolved by the Manama regime.
He had his citizenship revoked back in June, with Bahrain’s Interior Ministry accusing the clergyman of seeking the “creation of a sectarian environment.” He has rejected the accusation.
Elsewhere in its statement, Amnesty said that four of the detained clerics were sentenced to between one and two years imprisonment while nine others remain in detention pending trial.
Most of the 60 have been charged with “illegal gathering” or “inciting hatred of the regime” as well as taking part in the Diraz demonstrations.
Many of the Shia clergymen released a statement in July demanding that the Al Khalifah regime halt its practice of targeting them for their “identity,” “beliefs” and “rituals.”
Last month, a number of United Nations-appointed independent experts said the kingdom should stop “arbitrary” arrests and summons, and release those who put behind bars for exercising their rights.
Human Rights Watch also accused the Bahraini regime of systematically targeting religious leaders of the country’s Shia community and violating the clerics’ right to freedom of expression and gathering.
Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has seen a wave of anti-regime protests since mid-February 2011.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others wounded or detained amid Manama’s ongoing crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country’s Shia majority.