Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has expressed his shock and alarm at the Bahraini Government’s decision to strip the country’s leading Shia cleric of his citizenship.

Deputy Crowe said:

“The oppressive, undemocratic, and sectarian regime in Bahrain has continually crushed democratic protests and jailed human rights defenders since mass and popular protests calling for democracy in Bahrain began in 2011.

“The autocratic Bahraini Government has previously jailed key human rights and democracy activists, including Nabeel Rajab, who was imprisoned for sending a tweet critical of the Bahrain regime.

“Now this same regime has stripped the country’s most prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, of his citizenship. His passport is to be revoked and he will then be considered stateless.

“The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights says everyone has the right to a nationality. Over 250 people have been stripped of their basic right to citizenship in Bahrain in recent years according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“This move comes days after the regime suspended the leading Shia opposition grouping, Wefaq National Islamic Society, and will seriously inflame religious and political tensions in the region.

“The move has been rightly condemned by many, with even the US State Department claiming that it was alarmed and unaware of any credible evidence to support the removal his citizenship.

“Human Rights Watch has said that this decision risks leading Bahrain into its darkest of days and that the action should be met with serious consequences, not just expressions of concern.

“I echo these claims and I intend to directly raise this with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan.”