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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 15:43 GMT
Bahrain pro-democracy cleric dies
Bahraini Shia cleric Abdul Amir al-Jamri
Abdul Amir al-Jamri led anti-government protests in the 1990s
One of the most prominent Shia clerics in Bahrain, Abdul Amir al-Jamri, has died at the age of 69.

His family said he had died at his home after a long illness.

Mr Jamri rose to prominence in the 1990s, when he led pro-democracy protests during a campaign for the restoration of an elected parliament.

He was an MP in the assembly that was dissolved by the authorities in 1975. Shia opposition groups saw him as their father figure and spiritual mentor.

He had been bedridden since suffering a stroke in April 2002.

Protests and jail

Mr Jamri studied at the Shia centre of learning in the Iraqi city of Najaf.

He was the driving force behind Shia-led protests calling for the reinstatement of parliament and a fairer distribution of economic resources.

At least 38 people died during anti-government unrest between 1994 and 1999.

Mr Jamri was jailed twice because of his political activities.

Political gains

Earlier this month, Bahrain appointed its first Shia Muslim deputy prime minister.

Jawad Oraied, a government supporter and former minister, was one of three deputies to PM Sheikh Khalifa.

The main Shia opposition group, al-Wifaq, won 17 of the 40 seats in recent parliamentary polls.

Al-Wifaq supporters accused King Hamad and the al-Khalifa clan of naming only politicians who would look after the ruling family's interests.

Last week, a 40-member Shura, or consultative, council was appointed by the king, with powers to veto legislation by the elected parliament.

The long-serving foreign and defence ministers, both from the ruling family, kept their posts.

Correspondents say pro-government Sunni Islamists also fared well in the elections, giving relatively liberal Bahrain a parliament dominated by Islamists.

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