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The New Arab & agencies

Bahrain dissolves al-Wefaq opposition party

Protests sparked when authorities arrest al-Wefaq's leader Ali Salman [AFP]

Date of publication: 17 July, 2016

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The kingdom has ordered the main opposition party, al-Wefaq to be dissolved on Sunday, accusing the bloc of 'harbouring terrorism' in the latest and biggest crackdown on opposition.
Bahraini authorities dissolved the kingdom's main opposition party al-Wefaq on Sunday, accusing the group of "harbouring terrorism"

The administrative court also ordered the Shia movement's funds to be seized by the government, a judicial source said, despite several appeals by the United Nations, United States and international rights group to drop legal processes against the bloc.

The court accused al-Wefaq – which held the most amount of seats in parliament before lawmakers resigned in protest at the crushing of the 2011 protests – of "inciting violence and encouraging demonstrations and sit-ins which could lead to sectarian strife in the country."

The justice ministry, which had requested dissolving al-Wefaq, accused the bloc of providing a haven for "terrorism, radicalisation and violence" and opening the way for "foreign interference" in the kingdom's affairs – a reference to Iran which is regularly accused of fomenting unrest amongst Bahrain's Shia majority.

Washington labelled the crackdown on it "alarming" but Bahraini courts maintained that the bloc had "criticised the performance of the state authorities – executive, judicial, and legislative."

Despite repeated appeals from its US ally for "reform and reconciliation", Bahrain has carried out an intensifying crackdown on leading Shia figures over the years, including arresting leading opposition figures like al-Wefaq's chief, cleric Ali Salman in 2014.

Last month, Bahrain's top Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qasim was stripped of his nationality, prompting more street protests in the small Gulf kingdom.

Amnesty International urged Bahraini authorities to halt its "intensified crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and movement", adding it is "deeply concerned" by the decision to suspend al-Wefaq.

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