Bahrain slams criticism over opposition ban

Bahrain has rebuffed its British and US allies over a ban on the kingdom’s largest opposition group, insisting it will brook no interference in its internal affairs.

On Sunday, a court dissolved Al Wefaq, the largest faction in parliament before 2011, accusing it of fanning violence in parts of the country.

The ruling was condemned by Western governments and the United Nations.

Bahrain issued a statement late on Monday hitting back at its Western allies.

“Such statements and positions are unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and in the decisions of the Bahraini judicial process, which provides all necessary standards of justice, fairness, transparency and independence,” the foreign ministry said.

The “statements are unjustified and only give encouragement to groups which support extremism and terrorism,” it added.

The ministry said it hoped “friendly and allied countries take into account the interests” of Bahrain, just as it “is keen to take into account the interests of all allies and partners in order to preserve their distinctive historical relations, and to ensure security and stability in the region”.

Bahrain received military support from its Gulf allies when it quelled the 2011 protests for a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister, but its moves have drawn mounting Western criticism, which has angered the kingdom.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the Al Wefaq ban was the “latest in a series of disconcerting steps in Bahrain”.

He called on Bahrain to “reverse these and other recent measures (and) return urgently to the path of reconciliation”.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urged Bahrain “to guarantee and protect political freedoms for all its citizens”.

Al Wefaq’s chief, Shiite cleric Ali Salman, is serving a nine-year jail term on charges of inciting violence after a court in May more than doubled his sentence.

Authorities have also stripped at least 261 people of their citizenship since 2012, including the country’s Shiite spiritual leader, Shaikh Eisa Qasim.

Last October, Britain began building a naval base at Mina Salman, outside Manama, its first new permanent base in the Middle East in four decades.


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