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Middle east

Bahrain seeks to dissolve opposition parties

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-04-14

Bharaini authorities have taken legal steps to dissolve two opposition groups, including the main Shiite party Wefaq, in connection with weeks of anti-government protests that prompted a deadly crackdown in March.

REUTERS - Bahrain said on Thursday it would seek court approval to dissolve the main Shi'ite opposition group Wefaq, its strongest action yet against a mainstream group with the most opposition seats in parliament.

"The Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs announced it is raising legal action to dissolve the Islamic Action party and Wefaq group," a statement on the Bahrain News Agency said.

"This is because of major violations of the constitution and laws of the kingdom, undertaking activities that harmed social peace, national unity, and inciting disrespect for constitutional institutions."

Last month Bahrain's Sunni Muslim rulers crushed weeks of protests led mainly by Shi'ites, spreading security forces throughout the capital and calling in troops from Sunni-led Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The uprising unnerved Sunni-ruled Gulf states that feared the democracy movement could spread further if it was successful in Bahrain. Gulf rulers accused non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran of interfering in Bahrain, where Shi'ites form the majority.

The government has launched a security crackdown in recent weeks, arresting hundreds of Shi'ites and firing Shi'ite workers from state companies.

It had not previously targeted Wefaq, which has called for a constitutional monarchy but did not join other groups who chose a more confrontational approach during the protests in calling for the overthrow of the ruling Khalifa family.

Wefaq mobilised more than 100,000 protesters during peaceful marches when the government still allowed gatherings.

It won 18 seats in Bahrain's 40-seat elected parliament last year, while complaining of gerrymandered electoral districts to prevent Shi'ites candidates demanding democratic reform from taking a majority. It resigned its seats in parliament in protest over the government crackdown.

Parliament has little power and the cabinet, appointed by the king, has been headed by the same member of the ruling family for four decades.

"It's reached a stage where they say there are no more moderates, that the entire opposition consists of extremists. This is the wrong message," said Mattar Ibrahim Mattar, a former Wefaq member of parliament.

"The hardliners (in government) never wanted Wefaq to take part in elections and get seats in parliament," he said.

The severity of the crackdown stunned Bahrain's Shi'ite majority, who say they have no loyalty to non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran. It also sparked criticism from Iran and Shi'ite groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The United States, whose Fifth Fleet is stationed in the Gulf island kingdom, offered muted criticism of the government's crackdown and analysts say it refrained from pushing Bahrain to ease its security sweeps because of anxieties over interference from Iran, just across the Gulf.


Date created : 2011-04-14


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