A Bahraini court has delayed the verdict in the case of top Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, whose nationality was revoked last year.
The court had earlier set March 14 as the date to issue its ruling on Sheikh Qassim's case, but it adjourned its decision until May 7, Arabic-language Bahrain Mirror news website reported on Tuesday.
Qassim, the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s dissolved opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, was stripped of his nationality last June over accusations that he used his position to serve foreign interests and promote sectarianism and violence.
The clergyman, who is in his mid-70s, has denied the allegations, refused to be assigned a lawyer and declined to attend any of the trial sessions. Qassim faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.
In addition to Sheikh Qassim, Bahraini authorities are also trying the cleric’s office head and staffer, Sheikh Hussein Mahrous and Mirza al-Dirazi, respectively.
The trio are accused of laundering money and raising funds without licenses in connection with the practice of Khums - a religious tax which followers of Islam pay to their highest religious authorities for use in charities and other donations.
A female Bahraini protester holds a photo of senior Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, as she confronts riot police's armored personnel carrier during a demonstration to mark the 6th anniversary of the February 14 uprising, in the village of Sitra, south of Manama, Bahrain, February 14, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
On Monday, people held mass protests in more than 50 Bahraini villages, among them Qassim's hometown, Diraz.
The rallies came after Bahraini clerics released a joint statement and called on all fellow citizens to show their solidarity with the cleric, stressing that the people's unwavering support for him is the “religious duty” of all Muslims.
Anti-regime protesters have taken to the streets on an almost daily basis ever since the popular uprising began in Bahrain in February 2011.
The demonstrators are demanding that the Al Khalifah family relinquish power and let a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others wounded or detained amid Manama’s crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country’s Shia majority.