Middle East

Bahrain shuts Shiite clerics' council

A Bahraini man talks on his phone as he walks past pictures of prisoners held in connection with the pro-democracy uprising in the Gulf nation Sunday, May 27, 2012, in the western village of Karzakan, Bahrain. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

DUBAI: A Bahraini court shuttered on Wednesday a Shiite Muslim clerics' council, after authorities in the Sunni-ruled kingdom accused it of politicization and illegal operations.

The court ordered the closure of the Olamaa Islamic Council and the liquidation of its assets following a lawsuit by the ministry of justice, Islamic affairs and endowment, a judicial source said.

The ministry said in September that the office had been "functioning outside the law".

The verdict came as authorities crack down on opposition action by Shiites, who make up the majority of the population in the Gulf archipelago.

The council led by prominent cleric Issa Qassem "violates the constitution and the laws of the kingdom," the ministry said at the time, accusing its members of "using it to practise politics under a confessional cover".

The council also "adopted the call for the so-called revolution," it charged, referring to Shiite-led protests against the government that erupted in February 2011 before being dispersed a month later.

Home to the US Fifth Fleet and strategically situated across the Gulf from Iran, Bahrain still sees sporadic Shiite-led demonstrations, mostly outside the capital Manama.

At least 89 people have been killed in Bahrain since the protests began, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.





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