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AFP: Activists Held ahead of Cleric Verdict

2017-03-14 - 5:25 p

Bahrain Mirror-AFP: Bahraini police arrested several activists Monday, on the eve of the anticipated verdict in the trial of a leading Shiite cleric accused of sectarianism and money laundering, witnesses said.

Police in the Sunni-ruled kingdom mounted checkpoints outside Shiite villages near Manama and made several arrests, witnesses and activists said.

The authorities did not announce any arrests.

Meanwhile, scores of Shiites joined a sit-in outside the house of Sheikh Isa Qassim in the village of Diraz west of the capital Manama, witnesses said.

In June, the interior ministry stripped Qassim, 75, of his Bahraini nationality and accused him of abusing his position as a cleric to "serve foreign interests and promote... sectarianism and violence".

He is also accused of illegal fundraising and money laundering.

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

Despite repeated calls from their Western allies, Bahrain's rulers have made no concessions to the Shiite opposition and have intensified a crackdown on critics.

The Gulf archipelago is also home to the US Fifth Fleet.

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