MANAMA - Bahraini authorities have stripped high-ranking Shiite cleric Ayatollah Hussein Mirza Najati of his citizenship for "violation" of the law, local media reported on Monday.
Another Bahraini Shiite cleric, Sheikh Abdeljalil al-Moqdad, has been notified that his sermons have been suspended for two weeks, Al-Ayyam daily said, citing a justice ministry statement.
The sermons of Moqdad, the imam of a mosque in a suburb of Manama, "threatened social peace" and "interfered with the affairs of justice," the statement said.
The actions against the clerics come amid heightened tension in the Shiite-dominated kingdom sparked when 23 Shiite activists were charged earlier this month with forming a "terror network" aimed at bringing down the Sunni-dominated government.
Authorities seized the passports of Ayatollah Najati, his wife and three children, which had been acquired "in violation of the law on nationality," local media cited Sheikh Rashid bin Khalifa al-Khalifa, the head of immigration services for the country's interior ministry, as saying.
He did not elaborate on the nature of the violations, but was quoted in Al-Wasat daily as saying the Shiite cleric, who is of Iranian origin, and his family could re-apply for Bahraini citizenship under "the legal procedures."
Najati is "the principle representative in Bahrain of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani," the highest-ranking Shiite cleric in Iraq, Sistani's office in Iraq said.
Najati was born in Muharreq, the second-largest island in the archipelago of Bahrain. He studied theology in Najaf in Iraq and Qom in Iran, and is considered one of the highest-ranking clerics in Bahrain's Shiite community.
Amnesty International has accused the authorities in Bahrain of an intensifying "clampdown... on Shiite opposition and human rights activists in the run-up" to October 23 parliamentary elections.
Two of the 23 activists accused this month are in London and were charged in absentia, while the remaining 21 were arrested in August.
Most of the 23 are members of Haq -- the Movement of Liberties and Democracy -- a Shiite group which rejected as inadequate reforms intended to put an end to Shiite-led unrest that rocked the 35-island archipelago through the 1990s.
Those reforms, enshrined in a 2002 charter, converted the emirate into a constitutional monarchy but Haq boycotted parliamentary elections in 2006 and intends to do the same next month.