Bahrain suspends main opposition movement for three months

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A Bahraini girl shows her hands knotted with a writing reading in Arabic "No to dictatorship" during an anti-government rally in the village of Diraz, west of Manama, on January 17, 2014 .(Photo: AFP - Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

Published Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Bahrain court banned the Gulf state's main opposition movement for three months Tuesday just weeks before parliamentary election, a court official said.

The Manama administrative court ruled that al-Wefaq had "violated the law on associations" and gave the party three months to regularize its status.

Al-Wefaq had already announced that it would boycott the November 22 election along with other opposition groups.

Bahrain, with Saudi Arabia's help, crushed peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations that began on February 14, 2011 inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere, but has yet to resolve the conflict between the population and the monarchy oppressing them.

Today, Bahrain has the distinction of being the country with the second highest prison population rate per 100,000 amongst Arab states in the West Asian and North African region.

The kingdom continues to detain of over 2,000 Bahrainis who dared to challenge the al-Khalifa monarchy when the uprising erupted.

It is worth noting that Washington is a long-standing ally of the ruling al-Khalifa dynasty, and Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Moreover, there are over 200 minors held within these prisons, forced to stay side-by-side with adults, and a few have faced torture and sexual abuses.

Crackdown on rights activists

Several case have drawn sharp criticism from international civil society groups over the state of human rights in Bahrain.

In October, Bahrain authorities detained two prominent human rights activists.

On October 15, Bahraini authorities ordered pro-democracy activist Zainab al-Khawaja, who is pregnant and lives in Bahrain, to be detained for questioning for seven days after a judge accused her of insulting King Hamad by tearing up his picture.

Earlier this year, the king approved a law imposing a jail sentence of up to seven years and a fine of up to 10,000 dinars ($26,500) for anyone who publicly insulted him.

In February, Zainab was released after nearly a year in prison for multiple convictions, including taking part in pro-democracy protests.

Zainab was a prominent activist during the 2011 protests, where she became known for publishing news of the uprising on social media especially after she called for international attention to focus on an estimated 3,000 prisoners believed to be behind bars in Bahrain on politically related charges.

Her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is a prominent activist and former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He is among several opposition figures who are currently serving life sentences. He drew attention to his imprisonment with a lengthy hunger strike in 2012.

On October 19, prominent Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab went on trial over remarks published on his Twitter account that were critical of state institutions.

Rajab is one of the most high-profile pro-democracy campaigners in the Arab world, and founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He took a leading role in mass demonstrations in Bahrain in 2011 which asked for reforms in the Gulf kingdom.

He was jailed in May 2012 on charges of organizing and participating in "illegal protests." He was released in May 2014.

Many Shias in the country complain of political and economic discrimination, a charge the Sunni-led authorities deny.

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters, AFP)

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