Bahrain expels envoy of Shia Ayatollah Sistani

AFP , Wednesday 23 Apr 2014

Authorities in Sunni-ruled Bahrain on Wednesday expelled the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in the latest manifestation of tension with the kingdom's Shia majority.

Sheikh Hussein al-Najati was among 31 Bahrainis who had their citizenship revoked in November 2012 over accusations that they had undermined state security, more than a year after authorities crushed a Shia uprising in March 2011.

Najati "practised unclear activities, without coordinating with authorities which discovered afterwards that he was Sistani's representative," the interior ministry said.

"Working as an official representative of any party necessitates a letter of accreditation that specifies responsibilities and planned activities," it said.

Najati worked on "collecting funds and distributing them" in the name of the Iraq-based Sistani, one of the top Shia spiritual guides, the ministry added.

Najati was born in 1960 to Iranian parents in Bahrain, it said.

He arrived on Wednesday in Lebanon, according to Bahrain's Shia Al-Wefaq opposition association.

Sistani, who is based in the Iraqi city of Najaf, in 2011 condemned Bahrain's crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired protests which demanded democratic reforms in the Gulf kingdom.

Bahrain remains deeply divided three years after the February 2011 uprising, with persistent protests sparking clashes with police, scores of Shias jailed on "terror" charges and reconciliation talks deadlocked.

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