Top Shiite cleric leaves Bahrain for treatment in Britain

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A top Shiite cleric and opposition figure in Bahrain has left the island kingdom for medical treatment in Britain.

Sheikh Isa Qassim flew out of Bahrain International Airport on Monday. Opposition activists say Bahrain issued the sheikh a one-year passport as he is technically stateless since a Bahraini court stripped him of citizenship.

Authorities did not immediately acknowledge his departure.

Qassim has been suffering from an undisclosed illness and recently fell and hurt himself as well. Activists said Qassim and supporters would pay for his care.

Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa on Friday wrote on Twitter that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had offered to pay for the sheikh's treatment.

Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, is in the midst of a yearslong crackdown on dissent.

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