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Aug 23, 9:30 AM EDT

Rights group: Bahrain systematically targets Shiite clerics

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Human Rights Watch says Bahraini authorities are systematically targeting Shiite clerics and violating their rights to freedom of assembly following a decision to strip the country's top Shiite cleric of his nationality.

The New York-based human rights group said in a statement Tuesday that at least 56 other clerics may have been questioned or charged by authorities in the Gulf island nation since June.

Four Shiite clerics told Human Rights Watch they were charged with illegally gathering after taking part in a sit-in for Sheikh Isa Qasim, who was stripped of his nationality in June on allegations he encouraged sectarianism and violence.

Sunni-led Bahrain has faced low-level unrest since its 2011 Arab Spring protests, when its Shiite majority and others called for more political freedoms.



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