Bahrain opposition leader summoned by police

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 17, 2013 11:47 AM

DUBAI (Reuters) - A leading Bahraini opposition figure was taken by police to the public prosecutor on Tuesday, in what his party said was an attempt to suppress dissent in the U.S.-allied island kingdom.

The Interior Ministry said on Twitter that Khalil al-Marzouq, a former lawmaker and an aide to the opposition Al Wefaq party's Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman, had been summoned and taken to the prosecutor. It gave no details.

An Al Wefaq spokesman said the fact that Marzouq had been taken to the prosecution office meant he had been arrested.

Persistent periods of unrest since February 2011, when an uprising led by the Shi'ite Muslim majority demanded the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty give up power, have planted Bahrain on the front line of a tussle for regional influence between Shi'ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

Authorities in Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, quelled the 2011 revolt, one of a series of "Arab Spring" upheavals, but protests and clashes have persisted despite talks between government and opposition.

Al Wefaq, a large opposition group which says it advocates non-violent methods of activism, said in a statement the measure was part of a government project to "wipe out" political action.

"Al Wefaq stresses that this summons is a clear targeting of political action in Bahrain and reflects the regime's attempts to push the country into further complication and escalation due to its reckless decisions and repression," it said.

An Interior Ministry spokesman referred queries to the prosecutor's office. A person who answered the telephone at the prosecution office said there was no one there to talk to the media and further inquiries could be made only on Wednesday.

This year, Bahrain passed new laws against what it called acts of terrorism, allowing tougher penalties including longer prison terms and the stripping of Bahraini nationality.

The Interior Ministry said on Twitter that one of five policemen wounded in a bomb attack in Dair village north of the capital Manama on August 17 had died of his injuries.

The ministry said at the time that security officers had confronted a "terrorist group" in the village when the homemade device exploded.

An international inquiry commission said in a November 2011 report that 35 people had died during the uprising. The dead were mainly protesters but included five security personnel and seven foreigners.

The Bahrain opposition complains of discrimination against Shi'ites in areas such as work and public services, and is demanding a constitutional monarchy with a government chosen from within a democratically-elected parliament.

The government denies any discrimination. It has accused Iran of fomenting unrest in Bahrain, a charge Tehran denies.

(Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Sylvia Westall and Robin Pomeroy)