Sunday, April 23, 2017

Huge crowds of Shiite faithful throng Baghdad shrine

Baghdad, Apr 23 - Hundreds of thousands of Shiite faithful thronged the mausoleum of Imam Kadhim in Baghdad today for the climax of a week-long pilgrimage that saw millions converge on the Iraqi capital.

    Beating their heads and chests, crowds of pilgrims lurched and swerved to try to touch a mock coffin being carried to the shrine in the northern neighbourhood of Kadhimiyah.

    "This visit means a lot to us, it is about showing respect for the suffering of the imam and the injustice he faced and about reaffirming our dedication to him," said Ahmad Jamal, a 28-year-old civil servant in the crowd of pilgrims.



    Kadhim, the seventh of 12 revered imams in Shiite Islam, died in 799 AD. The commemoration has in recent years turned into a huge event that brings the Iraqi capital to a standstill for days.

    The organisers estimated that around 10 million people came to Kadhimiyah for the commemoration in recent years, which is still less than the 17 million faithful said to have visited the southern shrine city of Karbala for the Arbaeen pilgrimage last year.



    Shiite religious events and sites are considered prime potential targets for suicide attacks by the Islamic State group and huge security deployments were visible across Baghdad.



    Many of the main thoroughfares have been blocked to traffic for days to minimise the risk of car bombs and allow the pilgrims to reach the shrine. Some of them walk several days, mostly from southern Iraq.




Monday, April 03, 2017

Bahrain cuts Sheikh Ali Salman jail term: judicial source

Dubai, Apr 3 - Bahrain's top court today reduced the jail sentence of Shiite opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, who has been in prison since 2014, a judicial source said.

The Sunni-ruled kingdom's court of cassation reduced Salman's sentence from nine to four years, the source said on condition of anonymity.
No further details were immediately available.

The court of cassation in October had ordered a retrial of the 51-year-old cleric, who headed the now-banned Al-Wefaq Shiite opposition movement.

Salman had been arrested on charges of inciting hatred and insulting the state in December 2014.
He was found guilty in July 2015 and sentenced to four years in jail.

An appeals court later more than doubled his jail term to nine years, after reversing an earlier acquittal on charges of calling for regime change by force.

Salman is considered a moderate who has pushed for a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain compared to more hardline groups who have demanded the toppling of the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty in a string of protests that go back to 2011.

Bahrain has cracked down over the past six years on dissent by members of the Shiite majority, whom it accuses of being manipulated by Iran.
Shiite Iran has consistently denied any involvement.

The kingdom last year ordered the dissolution of Al-Wefaq, the country's main Shiite opposition party, for "harbouring terrorism".
Al-Wefaq was the largest bloc in Bahrain's elected lower house of parliament.

Its lawmakers resigned en masse in protest against the state crackdown on the 2011 protests.
In 1995, Salman was among a string of oppositionists exiled from Bahrain, moving to the United Arab Emirates and then Britain.

In 2001, he returned to Bahrain under a general amnesty and set up Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society with other Shiite opposition figures.

In 2006 he was elected secretary general of the group.