Last updated: 29 July, 2013

Bahrain king endorses “anti-terror” powers

Bahrain’s King Hamad ordered the government on Monday to implement a parliamentary call for tough measures against what the authorities are calling an upsurge in “terrorism” linked to Shiite-led protests.

The monarch forwarded to the government recommendations adopted on Sunday by parliament, ordering their “quick implementation”, the official BNA news agency said.

The loyalist-dominated parliament, which is boycotted by the Shiite opposition, gave authorities powers to revoke the citizenship of anyone “recognised as guilty of committing or inciting an act of terrorism”.

At an extraordinary session requested by the king during a parliamentary recess, MPs also recommended “a ban on gatherings and rallies” in the capital Manama.

It called for emergency law to be declared in the Sunni-ruled Shiite-majority Gulf kingdom if the need arose in the run-up to a major opposition demonstration called for mid-August.

MPs urged authorities to prosecute political groups that “incite and support acts of violence and terrorism”, as well as those that use media social networks to “spread false information”.

Al-Ayam newspaper described the recommendations as “historic” and a reflection of a “national consensus to fight terrorism” in the kingdom.

The Shiite-led opposition on Monday described the language used in the parliamentary debate as a “declaration of war on the people, as well as open threats and insults to beliefs”.

But the opposition groups also insisted in a statement that the people’s actions remain “peaceful,” denouncing “propaganda to promote a security solution… which violates international conventions”.

The authorities say there have been a growing number of shootings and bombings targeting police stations and patrols in Shiite villages outside Manama, and they blame “terrorists” for the attacks.

They have often used the term to refer to Shiite demonstrators who have kept up pro-democracy protests despite a 2011 crackdown backed by Saudi-led Gulf troops, sparking repeated clashes with security forces.

A car bomb exploded outside a Sunni mosque, close to the royal court in Rifaa south of Manama, on July 17 without causing any casualties. There have since been three arrests.

In mid-February, a police officer was killed by a petrol bomb during clashes with protesters, after a teenager was shot dead during a demonstration marking the second anniversary of the launch of the protests.

At least 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the protests erupted, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

Strategically located across the Gulf from Shiite Iran, Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and is an offshore financial and services centre for its oil-rich Gulf Arab neighbours.

The opposition insisted on the need for a “serious and meaningful dialogue” to end the country’s “constitutional crisis”.

In February the opposition joined a national dialogue called by King Hamad and aimed at resolving the political deadlock in the kingdom.

The meetings, that were held every two weeks, have been suspended until the end of August for the summer break.