Alwaght-Bahrain's leading Shiite cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim has been hospitalized in critical condition after weeks of suffering from deteriorating health.
Sheikh Qassim's family and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights group confirmed his hospitalization at a private hospital on Monday and said he was in "critical condition."
The high-ranking Islamic scholar has been under house arrest for around 500 days amid daily protest gatherings in the northwestern village of Diraz which is besieged by regime forces.
Bahrain's leading political party al-Wefaq and rights bodies said the cleric, who is in his late 70s, was suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Deputy Secretary-General of al-Wefaq Sheikh Hussein al-Daihi said the spiritual leader was taken from his home to a private hospital amid tight security measures.
The cleric, known as the spiritual leader of the country's Shiite Muslim majority, has been hailed as a source of inspiration for their peaceful demonstrations against the ruling Al Khalifa regime.
The monarchy has killed scores of people and imprisoned hundreds of people among the protesters, who are campaigning for an elected government and a stop to discrimination against the Shiites.
On May 21, a Bahraini court convicted Sheikh Qassim of illegal collection of funds and money laundering and sentenced him to one year in jail suspended for three years.
The top Shiite Islamic scholar also faces expulsion from Bahrain after authorities revoked his citizenship, accusing him of “illegal fund collections, money laundering and helping terrorism.” They further accused him of using his position to “serve foreign interests” and promote “sectarianism and violence.” He has strongly rejected all the allegations.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom in mid-February 2011.
They are demanding that the west-backed Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.