Abdulrahman al-Nuaimi, founder of one of Bahrain's leading opposition groups, died Thursday after more than four years in a coma, political leaders said. He was 67.
Al-Nuaimi spent more than three decades in self-exile from the tiny Gulf kingdom because of tensions over efforts by Bahrain's Shiite majority to challenge the vast powers of Bahrain's ruling Sunni dynasty.
From abroad, he founded an underground resistance group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, which was inspired by Arab nationalist movements in the 1970s.
He returned in 2001 after a series of political reforms and established the Bahraini National Democratic Society, or Waad party, a liberal bloc that reached out to both Shiite and Sunni reformers.
In 2006, al-Nuaimi, a Sunni, was narrowly defeated by a pro-government candidate in a race for a parliament seat. His supporters claimed he was the victim of vote rigging.
Al-Nuaimi health deteriorated and he lapsed into a coma in April 2007.
The Waad party and other opposition groups have faced sharp crackdowns since Shiite-led protests began in February seeking greater rights. Al-Nuaimi's successor as leader of Waad, Ibrahim Sharif, was sentenced to five years in prison in June as part of harsh verdicts against prominent opposition figures charged with plotting to overthrow Bahrain's 200-year-old monarchy.
Al-Nuaimi's funeral is planned for Friday.