07/18/2016, 14.24
BAHRAIN
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Judges dissolve Shiite opposition movement Wefaq and seize assets

Court claims the group has fomented violence and encouraged sectarian discord. During the trial, defense lawyers denounced intimidation, limitations and obstacles. US and the UN criticize judgment. Satisfaction of Prime Minister Khalifa well Salman al-Khalifa: Measure essential  "to preserving security and stability."

 

Manama (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Bahrain judiciary (Sunni monarchy) has ordered the dissolution of the main opposition group (Shiite) and the confiscation of all its assets. The judgment is criticized by the UN and the United States, following last month's decision by the executive to suspend all Wefaq National Islamic Society activities.

In addition, funds hitherto available to the movement that led the pro-democracy protests of 2011 will be made available to the Government.

Yesterday the Administrative Court judges ruled that the al-Wefaq movement has "stirred up violence" and encouraged demonstrations aimed at causing "sectarian strife" in the country. And its leaders have "criticized state institutions".

The jury issued the verdict after a trial in which the movement has not been able to benefit from the assistance of the lawyers; the defense team had stepped down in a previous hearing, in protest against restrictions and obstacles imposed by the authorities.

The Prime Minister of Bahrain Khalifa ben Salman al-Khalifa welcomed the ruling and confirmation of the hard line adopted by the government, calling them essential measures "to preserve security and stability.

In February, groups of protesters had taken to the streets to demand more political rights and an end to discrimination against the Shiite majority. The following month, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa called for the help of other Gulf nations - mostly Sunni - to restore order and stop the dissent. 30 civilians and five policemen were killed in the clashes.

In June, the court of appeal of Bahrain has more than doubled the sentence against Wefaq secretary-general Ali Salman Ahmed Salman, from four to nine years in prison. The judges also said he was guilty of trying to overthrow the government with use of force. Activists and pro human rights associations denounced  "manufactured and false" evidence and "sham trial".

Bahrain is a Gulf monarchy ruled by a Sunni dynasty in a country where the majority of the population (at least 60-70%) is Shia and want constitutional changes and social and economic rights.

In 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring, riots broke out that the king of Bahrain – a US ally supported by Riyadh – put down with Saudi military aid.

In recent weeks, the authorities have arrested and sentenced Shia activists and religious leaders and suspended the activities of Al-Wefaq, the main Shia opposition group, on charges of terrorism, extremism and violence as well as ties to a foreign power (i.e. Iran).

The new confrontation between Iran and a Gulf monarchy – combined with religious, political, and diplomatic tensions between Riyadh and Tehran – is a source of major concern in the West, especially the United States.

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