Last updated: 29 January, 2014

Bahrain shuts Shiite clerics’ council

A Bahraini court shuttered a Shiite Muslim clerics’ council on Wednesday, after authorities in the Sunni-ruled kingdom accused it of politicisation 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 endowments, a judicial source said.

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

Condemning the move, Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition bloc, Wefaq, warned that “the regime has declared war on Shiites” with the ruling.

The council itself vowed to ignore “this unjust ruling” of the court.

“As the action of the Olamaa has never been undertaken by an official decision, it can not be stopped by an official decision,” it said in a statement published by Wefaq.

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 justice 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 crushed by a Saudi-backed military intervention 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.