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Bahrain revokes top Shia cleric Isa Qassim's citizenship
But Bahrain's citizenship law allows for the cabinet to revoke the citizenship of anyone who "causes harm to the interests of the kingdom or behaves in a way inimical with the duty of loyalty to it".
Human Rights Watch says more than 200 Bahrainis were stripped of their citizenship last year, in some cases making them stateless.
Those involved may appeal against the decision, but the human rights group says Bahrain's courts "appear to grant the authorities absolute discretion" in such cases.
Ayatollah Qassim was born in Bahrain and activists say he does not hold any other nationality.
Hussein Abdulla, executive director of campaign group Americans for Human Rights and Democracy in Bahrain, called the move to revoke his citizenship "an unprecedented low for the Bahraini authorities".
British-based campaign group, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said it was concerned the action would "escalate tensions on the streets and may even lead to violence".
Human Rights Watch said it took the country "into the darkest days" since 2011, when demonstrators took to the streets to demand greater political rights and an end to discrimination against the Shia majority.
Later that year, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa brought in troops from neighbouring Sunni-led Gulf states to restore order and crush dissent. The unrest left at least 30 civilians and five policemen dead.
Opposition activists say dozens of people have been killed in ongoing clashes between protesters and security forces, while bomb attacks blamed on Iran-backed militants have left a number of police officers dead.