Bahraini Opposition Criticizes Government as It Girds for Protest

Bahraini opposition groups accused the government of fomenting unrest by setting up checkpoints and deploying tear gas in advance of a protest scheduled for Friday. Representatives of Al-Wefaq and others say the march had been planned so as not to disturb the peace, As-Safir reports.

al-monitor Riot police stand guard at the entrance of a main shopping area in downtown Manama, early evening Sept. 7, 2012, following an anti-government protest earlier in the day.  Photo by REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed.

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un, barhaini protests, bahrain

Sep 11, 2012

Bahraini opposition forces denounced the controversy stirred up by the government over the demonstration scheduled for Friday (Sept. 14) in the capital Manama. The opposition spoke out in a press conference yesterday (Sept. 10).

The opposition forces spoke out against the government’s escalation and denied accusations that the opposition is disrupting people's work, breaking the law and causing losses to the economy. They placed the blame on the security forces, which forbid them from holding the march.

Abdul Jalil Khalil, head of the resigned parliamentary bloc of the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, said that the route of the demonstration called for by the opposition was clear and did not exceed one kilometer. He added that while it does pass through a commercial area, this area was a street full of offices that do not open on Friday. Khalil explained that if the march was permitted in the designated area, it would not have lasted for more than one hour. He added that the government’s decision to surround Manama with more than 40 security checkpoints, close the streets leading to it and use tear gas and stun grenades in the capital’s alleys are what disrupted traffic and caused economic losses.

Khalil accused the government of stirring controversy over the march to divert attention (away from the actions of Bahraini security forces). Rida al-Moussawi , deputy secretary-general of the National Democratic Action Society (Waad), said that “the government prevents these marches, including the aforementioned march, as a means of suppressing the opposition and silencing its voice. The opposition political societies in Bahrain are responsible and support applying the law to everyone in a country ruled by institutions. There is no article in the peaceful assembly law that indicates that the capital is excluded from areas for holding demonstrations. The law calls for providing prior notification to the authorities regarding demonstrations, and does not require groups to obtain a license.”

Khalil added: “If the government is serious about implementing the law, they would address complaints that Al-Wefaq has filed in recent months. These include complaints against those who have destroyed mosques and against Bahraini state TV for broadcasting false news and inciting animosity against an essential component of the Bahraini people. In addition it filed a complaint regarding the attempted murder of Al-Wefaq Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman during his participation in a march that was banned by the Interior Ministry. None of these complaints have been investigated or the cases examined.” 

On a separate note, Sadeq Rabi, member of the “Al-Wefaq municipal bloc” and a representative in the municipal council, was seriously injured in the back and neck by shotgun bullets while he was participating in a demonstration on Sitra island east of Manama.

It is noteworthy that Rabi is not a member of the Al-Wefaq opposition society, and is the first to have been targeted physically. Resigned MPs Matar Matar and Jawad Fairouz had been tortured while in detention following the security forces’ attack on the protests that began in Bahrain last February.

In related news, the high criminal court adjourned the case involving Nazeeha Said — Bahrain’s correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo in Manama who was tortured last May — until Oct. 17 after the court listened to witnesses in yesterday's hearing.

The victim's lawyer — who is suing a police lieutenant in the Bahraini Interior Ministry on charges of torture during custody — said that the court listened to the witnesses and proved that torture had occurred. Said’s is the first case of torture to be brought before a Bahraini court since the launch of the protests.

Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid Bin-Ahmed Bin-Mohammed Al Khalifa, will head the official Bahraini delegation to the UN Human Rights Council for the periodic review of the kingdom’s human-rights record in Geneva in mid-September. He will be heading the delegation instead of Minister of State for Human Rights Dr. Salah Ali, who will still take part in the delegation, according to the Bahraini state-owned Al-Watan newspaper. Al-Watan attributed the reason behind these changes to “avoiding a failure to respond to the recommendations brought up in the previous session.”

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