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Sunday, June 26, 2016

El-Wefaq, largest Shia political party in Bahrain suspended

El-Wefaq, the largest Shia political party in Bahrain was suspended yesterday. The assets of the party were frozen as well. The move is part of a crackdown on activists after more than five years since a pro-democracy uprising first started in Bahrain. The official news agencypublished a statement from the Justice and Islamic Affairs Ministry. The statement said that a Bahrain court had ruled El-Wefaq should be suspended to "safeguard the security of the kingdom." This is not the first suspension for the party. The party demands a transition to democracy and the end of the rule of King Hamad al-Khalifa. Ever since an uprising that began on 14 February 2011, the monarch has been faced by continuing protests even though he insists he has reformed.

 The monarchy is dominated by Sunnis who are a minority in the country while the majority Shia claim they are marginalized. Activists are constantly placed under arrest. Zainab al-Khawaja who was held in jail until recently fled the country after she was threatened with being arrested again. She had been held in jail with her infant son for ripping up an image of King Khalifa. Her father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is serving a life sentence for his role in the 2011 uprisings. While she was sickin jail with the flu she was not allowed to have her husband take the baby until she was better. Abdulla al-Shamiawi , the lawyer for El-Wefaq,said that he was only served with the court papers on Tuesday morning and a hearing took place so quickly he had no time to prepare a defence. The documents claimed that El-Wefaq has harmed Bahraini security since its founding in 2001 and that it took part in the unrest during the 2011 protests. He said the suspension came "out of the blue". On the 6th of October a court hearing is to be held to decide if El-Wefaq should be "liquidated" .

After the 2011 protests, Bahrain, supported by Gulf allies responded by a crackdown that killed dozens of protesters, and countless activists and dissidents have been jailed with many alleged to have been tortured. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid al-Hussein claimed that at least 250 people have lost their citizenship "because of their alleged disloyalty to the interests of the kingdom." Al-Hussein said: "Repression will not eliminate people's grievances; it will increase them." The Foreign Minister Khalid al-Khalifa tweeted: : "We will not allow the undermining of our security and stability and will not waste our time listening to the words of a high commissioner who is powerless." Early Monday morning another human rights activists was arrested according to a member of the family. Nabeel Rajab was arrested after his house was surrounded and searched according to his son. The authorities seized his electronic devices. They gave no reason for the arrest. However, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy(BIRD) based in London said they believed the arrest was ordered by the Ministry of Interior's Electronic Crime Unit. They claimed it was part of a move to silence opponents ahead of the 32nd Session of the UN Human Right Council that was to convene soon in Geneva.

Activists have been banned from travel overseas prior to the conference. Rajab has been in prison many times. He was last released in July of 2015 after he had served three months for "insulting public institutions". Sayed Alwadaei, BIRD director of advocacy condemned Rajab's new arrest saying: “The re-arrest of Nabeel Rajab is abhorrent and reflective of the government repressive nature. This is a key test, especially for the US and UK, who must immediately and very clearly condemn the arrest of one of Bahrain's most prominent activists.” As shown on the appended video a court increased the sentence of a prominent activist to almost double the original sentence.

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