Fri, Jun 02, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Last main opposition group in Bahrain told to dissolve

AP, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

A court in Bahrain on Wednesday ordered the country’s last main opposition group dissolved and its property confiscated in the latest blow to reformers and dissenting voices in the Middle Eastern island-nation.

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said the political society known as Waad plans to appeal the ruling.

Waad confirmed the court order for its dissolution on its official Twitter account.

The Bahraini Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs had launched proceedings to dissolve the 15-year-old group, alleging that Waad incited acts of terrorism, promoted the violent overthrow of the Sunni-led government, and “glorified convicted terrorists and saboteurs.”

The government used similarly broad wording to dissolve the country’s largest Shiite opposition group, al-Wefaq.

Bahrain is a majority Shiite nation ruled by a Sunni monarchy with close ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which sent forces to help quell an Arab Spring style uprising in 2011.

An official at the US Department of State in Washington said the US is “deeply concerned” by the court decision to dissolve Waad and urges the government to reconsider its judicial action against the group.

“As we have consistently maintained, opposition parties that peacefully voice criticism of the government play a vital role in encouraging societies that are tolerant, inclusive and pluralistic,” said Edgar Vasquez, a Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs spokesman.

However, last month US President Donald Trump touted Washington’s “wonderful relationship” with Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

His administration has also notified the US Congress it plans to approve a multi billion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the department under US president Barack Obama.

Bahrain accuses Shiite-ruled Iran of arming and training some protesters to destabilize the country.

Waad’s dissolution comes a week after five people died in a police raid on the hometown of a prominent Shiite cleric who was stripped of his nationality and faces possible deportation.

Police arrested 286 people in the raid, adding to the hundreds more who have been jailed, forced into exile or stripped of their nationality in recent years.

Two smaller opposition groups remain active, but Waad was seen as the last major opposition group still functioning in Bahrain. The secular group included Shiite and Sunni activists, and political figures.

“Today matters because it says the government won’t just not tolerate Shiite opposition, it won’t tolerate any opposition,” Human Rights First senior advisor Brian Dooley said.

Amnesty International said: “Bahrain is now heading towards total suppression of human rights.”

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