Middle East

Bahrain moves to suspend main opposition party

Bahraini anti-government protesters carry a banner with images of jailed opposition leaders, demanding their freedom during a protest in the western village of Karzakan, Bahrain, late Monday, July 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

MANAMA: Bahrain’s Justice Ministry has asked a court to suspend the activities of the main Shiite opposition group, a move that could set back any efforts to restart reconciliation talks in the Gulf kingdom. The leader of the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Sheikh Ali Salman, said his group planned to challenge the move by legal means.

Bahrain, home to the U.S. 5th Fleet, quelled a popular uprising in 2011 when majority Shiites led mass demonstrations demanding a greater role in running the Sunni-ruled island, but low-level civil unrest has persisted.

The move comes ahead of national elections expected later this year, which the opposition had threatened to boycott.

The ministry asked for a three-month suspension of Al-Wefaq “so it can correct its legal status,” state news agency BNA reported Sunday.

In a statement, the ministry said it filed the lawsuit after Al-Wefaq insisted “on breaking the law and its own statute as well as its failure to amend violations related to its illegal general assemblies and the consequent invalidity of all its decisions,” the agency reported.

Sheikh Salman, the secretary-general of Al-Wefaq, said his group had not been officially notified of any legal action.

“The state follows political repression against the peaceful and public policies [of the opposition]. It has taken several measures and the last one of which is to file a case against Al-Wefaq,” he said.

“The government also wants to pressure Al-Wefaq to participate in the mock elections and this approach is wrong. Al-Wefaq will not participate in the elections,” he added.

Bahrain’s opposition parties say they will boycott the elections unless the government guarantees the vote will reflect the will of the people.

Talks between the government and opposition have failed to end the political standoff. Many of the kingdom’s Shiites complain of political and economic discrimination, a charge the authorities deny.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 21, 2014, on page 10.




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