Bahrain ban to stop protest marches

By Patrick Cockburn

The Bahraini authorities are to intensify repression by banning demonstrations and meetings to ensure public safety and prevent violence, according to the state news agency.

The Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy crushed pro-democracy protests in the kingdom's Shia majority last year with Saudi military help, amid allegations of widespread use of torture.

There have been street protests and skirmishes since the crackdown, but the Government says it will now prevent any kind of protest.

"It has been decided to stop all gatherings and marches and not to allow any activity before being reassured about security and achieving the required stability in order to preserve national unity," the Interior Minister, Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, said.

Action would be taken against anyone organising or taking part in demonstrations, he said.

The opposition made it clear that it would continue its protests.

Ali al-Aswad, a former MP for the al-Wifaq party, said: "The decision to continue has been taken. This is our right. The Government is not willing to talk to the people and, if we stop marches and rallies, we will get nothing for our demands." He doubts that the police will be able to quell protests and fears that the National Guard and army may be called in.

A sign of the deepening confrontation in Bahrain has been the sealing off of the Shia village of al-Aker, where a policeman was killed by a bomb.

The ban on protests will be embarrassing for the US, which has its Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, and also for Britain, which has close links to the island's rulers.

It will highlight the silence or muted criticism of both countries over continued repression in Bahrain, in sharp contrast to their outrage over state violence in Syria.

- Independent

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 22 Dec 2014 23:06:47 Processing Time: 274ms