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Bahrain court upholds ban on main opposition group

Al-Wefaq is accused of inciting violence and encouraging demonstrations [AFP]

Date of publication: 22 September, 2016

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Bahrain's lower house has upheld an order to suspend the main Shia opposition group al-Wefaq on Thursday, over accusations that members incited violence and encouraged anti-government demonstrations.
A Bahraini appeals court upheld a ban on the country's main Shia opposition group, despite international criticism of the government's crackdown on dissent.

A lower court had ordered the dissolution of the al-Wefaq association in July over accusations including "harbouring terrorism" and ordered its funds to be seized by the government.

The accusations also included inciting violence and encouraging demonstrations which threatened to spark sectarian strife in the Shia-majority country.

Al-Wefaq was the largest group in parliament before its lawmakers resigned en masse in protest at the crushing of Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations in 2011 calling for an elected government.

The court order drew criticism from rights group Amnesty International.

"The decision to uphold the dissolution of al-Wefaq is a flagrant attack on freedom of expression and association and a brazen attempt to suppress criticism of the government in Bahrain," Philip Luther, Amnesty International's research and advocacy director said in a statement on Thursday.

"The Bahraini authorities have not presented any credible evidence that al-Wefaq is anything but a peaceful opposition movement which has been seeking reform in the country in the face of increasing government repression."

The move was also condemned by UN chief Ban Ki-Moon and the kingdom's allies in Washington and London.

Shia-dominated Iran, which is repeatedly accused by Gulf foes of meddling in Bahrain's affairs, also condemned the order.

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