Bahrain continues crackdown on opposition

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As-Safir speaks to Ali Salman, head of the Bahraini Al-Wefaq opposition group, after he was released following an interrogation.

Bahrain released yesterday, Nov. 3, the secretary-general of the opposition’s Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Sheikh Ali Salman, placing him under house arrest. Salman was interrogated for six hours regarding Al-Wefaq’s launch of an exhibition last Wednesday that displayed “structural models, drawings and pictures attributed to the police and its systematic pursuance of inhumane practices and human rights violations,” as stated by the Minister of State for Media Affairs Samira Rajab.

Salman told As-Safir: “Al-Wefaq is the largest opposition group in Bahrain and it won 64% of the total votes in the 2006 and 2010 elections. Therefore, summoning its members and secretary general against the backdrop of opening the Museum of the Revolution, which, as stated and documented by the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, displays the violations that occurred in Bahrain, is a confiscation of the right of expression. This museum was only a peaceful and artistic right. The report was accepted, along with its recommendations, by the Bahraini authorities.

“Closing down the museum and legally summoning the members is unacceptable and does not help turning the negative reality in which we live into a positive reality that includes a political solution,” he added.

Concerning these developments and the return of the opposition to the negotiating table, Sheikh Salman pointed out that “we are in favor of a sincere dialogue that lays down the country’s problems on the table in a bid to produce a comprehensive political solution. We are still looking and calling for this dialogue. It was clear over the past nine months that the current form of dialogue is not productive and meaningless. We want it to be real.”

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For her part,  Bahraini government spokeswoman Samira Rajab said that “(Salman) was investigated on charges of insulting a statutory body, namely the Ministry of Interior, as Al-Wefaq has established an exhibition that displayed structural models, drawings and pictures attributed to the police in its systematic pursuance of inhumane practices and human rights violations.”

She continued: “At the opening of the exhibition, Al-Wefaq’s secretary-general, along with other members of the society, made inflammatory speeches that were an affront to the police, resulting from the fabrication of false stories.

Al-Wefaq deemed this summoning as a provocation on the part of the regime and its figures against the public, political work and the people's movement that is demanding democratic transformation. It is also a confiscation of the right of political action, as noted in a statement.

According to Al-Wefaq, these practices reflect the mentality of the rulers and their understanding of governance in Bahrain, and they show that the summoning of Salman is a message to the people of Bahrain and the entire international community about the mentality and behavior of this regime. In a statement, the opposition group stressed that the summoning of the secretary-general, an opposition leader, comes as part of a campaign of political blackmail and revenge against the peaceful opposition, which is demanding democracy and rejecting tyranny.

In a separate context, Bahrain’s Higher Criminal Court sentenced yesterday, Nov. 3, four oppositionists to life imprisonment. Two of the oppositions were already detained, serving 15-year sentences on charges of forming a “terrorist cell called the Army of the Imam. This cell was seeking to target sensitive military and civilian sites in addition to public figures within Bahrain.”

Head of Bahrain's Public Security Agency, Maj. Gen. Tariq al-Hassan, had announced in February information about the existence of a group seeking to form a “terrorist cell as a nucleus of the so-called Army of the Imam to carry out terrorist acts.”

The text of the public prosecution accusation stated that “during the period from February 2012 to January 2013, they contacted those who are working for Iran to carry out hostile actions against Bahrain, and they contacted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and gave them information concerning military and security locations and vital installations.”

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