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The New Arab

Bahrain bans main secular opposition group

Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since 2011. [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 June, 2017

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Bahrain ordered the dissolution of the main secular opposition group on Wednesday in a ruling human rights campaigners described as the 'total suppression of human rights'.

Bahrain's main secular opposition group was ordered by authorities to close on Wednesday in a ruling human rights campaigners described as the "total suppression of human rights".

The National Democratic Action Society (Waad) was dissolved by a Bahraini court order and its assets seized.

The social and political organisation campaigns for democracy and human rights in a country where political opposition groups are severely repressed.

Official state news agency BNA reported that the group had glorified as "martyrs" the men convicted of killing three police officers in a 2014 bomb attack. Rights groups described the charges as baseless.

"By banning major political opposition groups, Bahrain is now heading towards total suppression of human rights," Lynn Maalouf, director of research at Amnesty International's Beirut office, said in a statement.

In March, the Ministry of Justice in Bahrain filed a case against Waad accusing the group of supporting terrorism and sanctioning violence.

A month earlier, Waad had issued a statement saying that Bahrain was suffering from a "constitutional political crisis".

The London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said the latest court order was part of a wider crackdown on opposition groups.

"The government of Bahrain is acting with the aim of totally silencing all peaceful voices, leaving open the alternative of underground opposition and violence," the group's Director of Advocacy Sayed Alwadaei  told Reuters.

The Sunni-ruled Gulf state has been shaken by unrest since 2011, when Bahraini authorities backed by a Saudi military force crushed protests led by the island's Shia majority.

Demonstrators demanded a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

A crackdown against protesters intensified last year when Bahraini authorities banned the main Shia opposition group al-Wefaq and revoked the citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qassim, the group's spiritual leader and the country's top Shia cleric.

Last week, police killed five people and more than 300 detained after security forces raided Qassim's home village of Diraz, the scene of a long-running sit-in protest outside of his home.

Saudi Arabia defended the actions of Bahraini authorities saying the island "is an integral part" of the kingdom's security.

Bahrain has long accused Iran of fomenting unrest in the kingdom, ruled for more than two centuries by the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty - an allegation Tehran vehemently denies.

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