Bahrain files lawsuit to dissolve secular political party
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bahrain’s government filed a lawsuit Monday to dissolve a secular political party, the second-such organization it has targeted in the last year as part of an intense crackdown on opposition in the island nation.
Meanwhile, a Bahraini activist who jumped on the king’s car during a protest in London last year said two of his family members still on the island were arrested “to take their revenge on me.”
The country’s Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry accused the Waad party in a statement of “incitement of acts of terrorism and promoting (the) violent and forceful overthrow of (the) political regime.” The announcement, coming just a day after Bahrain’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment allowing military tribunals to try civilians , recalled the clampdown that followed the nation’s 2011 Arab Spring protests.
“The society glorified convicted terrorists and saboteurs who used weapons, detonated bombs in killing and wounding several security (personnel) and also undermined citizens and residents’ physical safety as well as damaged private and public properties,” the statement carried on the state-run Bahrain News Agency said. “The society continuously violated the principles of the democratic political process, basic freedoms and people’s participation in the process.”
The Justice Ministry offered no specific examples in its statement. The government did not immediately respond to a request from The Associated Press to elaborate on the ministry’s allegations.
Waad declined to immediately comment, but it long has been the target of authorities. Established in 2001 after its founder returned home after more than three decades in exile, Waad became a liberal bloc that reached out to both Shiite and Sunni reformers.
But it found itself targeted in 2011 in the government’s clampdown on the opposition. Its offices were targeted by vandals and twice set ablaze. Its then-leader Ebrahim Sharif ended up serving more than four years in prison after being convicted along with other activists by a military led tribunal of plotting to overthrow the government.
Sharif later was arrested and briefly faced charges for speaking to the AP in November during a visit by Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.
Bahrain already has dissolved the country’s largest Shiite opposition group, Al-Wefaq, and doubled a prison sentence for its secretary-general, Sheikh Ali Salman.
Brian Dooley, a senior adviser at the Washington-based Human Rights First, called the decision to go after Waad “astonishing” as the organization represented a “fairly genteel crowd.”
“This is more than extreme, even by their own standards,” Dooley said. “Even to voice the most peaceful, most moderate dissent is no longer tolerated.”
Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base, is a predominantly Shiite island ruled by a Sunni monarchy. Government forces, with help from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, crushed the 2011 uprising by Shiites and others who sought more political power.
Since the beginning of a government crackdown in April, activists have been imprisoned or forced into exile. Independent news gathering on the island also has grown more difficult.
Among those targeted have been family members of Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. In October, Alwadaei said his wife was beaten and detained for hours in Bahrain after he jumped on a car carrying King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa during his royal visit to London.
On Monday, Alwadaei told the AP that his mother-in-law and brother-in-law had been arrested separately on the island in recent days.
“Since Bahrain cannot get to me, my family is the target,” Alwadaei said.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
The kingdom had made reforms following a government-sponsored investigation into the 2011 demonstrations and the crackdown following it, but several of them have been overturned in recent weeks. Along with allowing military tribunals, the kingdom has restored the power of its feared domestic spy service to make some arrests.
Authorities say the rollbacks are necessary to fight terrorism as a series of attacks, including a January prison break, have targeted the island. Shiite militant groups have claimed some of the assaults. Bahrain on Saturday accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guard of training and arming some militants, something Iran dismissed on Monday as “baseless.”
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap. His work can be found at http://apne.ws/2galNpz .