Bahrain, main secular opposition party banned

Waad is accused of "fomenting violence, supporting terrorism, and encouraging crimes". Former party secretary Ibrahim Sharif has been arrested several times for his activities of democratic opposition. Human rights activists speak of "absurd and ungrounded" accusations.

Manama (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A Bahrain tribunal has ordered the dissolution of the country's top opposition group in the country, in the context of an increasingly marked campaign launched by the Sunni authorities against the Shiite component (majority) of the population. According to the judges, the Waad (National Democratic Action Society) is accused of "fomenting violence, supporting terrorism and encouraging crimes". International activists and NGOs speak of "absurd and groundless" accusations.

The sentence handed down yesterday afternoon, arrives less than a year after authorities 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).

Last week the police raided a Shiite village, causing the deaths of five people and detaining about 300. Behind the protests, Sheikh Qassim he was sentenced to prison (with suspended sentence) for corruption, whose citizenship has already been revoked, is accused of having used his position and his role to "serve the interests" of "foreign" powers.

Yesterday the Bahraini Justice Ministry that the High Court had ordered the Waad party be disolved. The decision is apparently motivated by the party’s use of the term "martyrs" to define three men executed in January for killing three policemen. Waad also violated the law by expressing solidarity with the Wefaq National Islamic Society.

Waad and its leaders deny having violated the Law on Political Association. They also point to their peaceful opposition to violence and in favor of the rights of all citizens in the country.

Activists and human rights associations say that Waad's suspension is an "attack" on freedom of expression and association, and the "further evidence" that the authorities do not intend to respect "human rights promises." A decision, they add, that is part of a wider campaign of repression "against human rights".

Former Waad Secretary General Ibrahim Sharif has been arrested, imprisoned, released and re-arrested several times in connection with his opposition activities.

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.