Bahrain Gives Top Shia Cleric a One-year Suspended Sentence

Published May 21st, 2017 - 07:00 GMT
Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa takes part in a bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump at a hotel in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)
Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa takes part in a bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump at a hotel in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

A Bahrain court sentenced a prominent Shia cleric and two others to one-year suspended prison sentence on Sunday and seized their assets.

Shaikh Eisa Qasim faced charges of money laundering and fuelling extremism in Bahrain. Authorities stripped Qasim of his citizenship last June, sparking fears his trial would see him deported from the country. The money laundering case revolves around a Shia tax known as “Khums” (One fifth) collected by a senior religious figure whom individuals follow.

It arose after investigators discovered more than $10 million in an account held by Qasim. The prosecution added that other holdings were in real estate. Supporters said the funds were part of a Shia tradition that allowed senior figures to collect the tax and spend it in the interest of ordinary Muslims.

The public prosecution advocate general on Sunday said the court also imposed a fine of 100,000 Bahraini dinars for each of the defendants and the confiscation of the seized assets related to the case.

The public prosecution will undertake the legal measures to enforce the verdicts once they are final and will then enforce the rulings, including the confiscation of the seized assets, the advocate general said.

They will be placed under the disposal of the relevant ministry legally tasked with distributing them for charity and humanitarian purposes in the related areas under the supervision of a judicial Sharia committee, he added.

In his statement, the advocate general said the public prosecution was looking into the court verdicts to determine whether it would file an appeal.

Bahraini officials last year vowed determination in going ahead with decisions “aimed to maintain the country’s security, protect its citizens and residents and continue with the development process.”

The interior ministry later in June said Qasim’s citizenship was revoked after he “played a major role in creating an extremist sectarian environment and worked on dividing the society alongside sects and in accordance with subordination to his orders.”

Reactions ranged from full support both in Bahrain and abroad, mainly from the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Saudi Arabia and Morocco, to calls to reverse the decisions, mainly from Iran.

Angry reactions to the measures included threats from Qasim Sulaimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force who said Bahrain and the region would be set ablaze.

But Bahraini officials dismissed the threats and explained that the measures were needed “to rectify the political process, protect the nation and safeguard stability and security.”

“Bahrain is acting within an international framework in its war on terrorism,” Prime Minister Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa said during a working meeting. “The measures taken aim to prevent foreign interference that wants to wreak havoc and to spread terrorism. No government in the world can tolerate terrorising its people or tampering with their safety.”

The original article has been edited for length.

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