Bahrain jails activist for three years over protests

By Andrew Hammond and Rania El Gamal

DUBAI | Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:16pm EDT

(Reuters) – A prominent Bahraini opposition activist was sentenced to three years in jail on Thursday for anti-government protests, his lawyer said, a verdict Washington said was deeply troubling and rights campaigners called a “dark day for justice”. Continue reading Bahrain jails activist for three years over protests

Bahrain delays verdict in protest leaders’ retrial

Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:44am EDT

* Verdict delayed until Sept. 4 as street protests simmer

* U.S. wants detainees freed to stabilise ally against Iran

* King says Bahrain has survived a year of “foreign plots”

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Bahrain on Tuesday delayed until Sept. 4 a ruling in the retrial of 20 men convicted of leading an uprising, lawyers said, a case under scrutiny from U.S. officials keen for a release of prisoners to help restore calm in a regional ally against Iran. Continue reading Bahrain delays verdict in protest leaders’ retrial

Bahrain crown prince urges police restraint over protests

DUBAI | Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:30am EDT

(Reuters) – Bahrain’s crown prince has ordered police to exercise restraint in dealing with protesters and to avoid sectarian discrimination, as opposition activists accuse the Gulf Arab state of cracking down on pro-democracy protests.

The opposition party Wefaq praised the crown prince’s comments. Continue reading Bahrain crown prince urges police restraint over protests

Bahrain bans opposition rallies, dialogue efforts continue

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI | Fri Jul 13, 2012 7:55pm IST

(Reuters) – Bahrain has said it is banning opposition rallies in order to prevent disruption to traffic and street violence that are sabotaging efforts to end unrest in the Gulf Arab state.

But the opposition described the move as a new attempt to silence them. Continue reading Bahrain bans opposition rallies, dialogue efforts continue

Bahrain closes Islamist party, cites “violent” cleric

DUBAI | Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:49pm EDT

(Reuters) – A Bahrain court has dissolved a Shi’ite Islamist political party which has played a role in the Gulf Arab state’s wave of unrest, on the grounds that it answers to a religious authority who calls for violence. Continue reading Bahrain closes Islamist party, cites “violent” cleric

Bahrain court jails protest leader over tweets: lawyer

DUBAI | Mon Jul 9, 2012 8:34am EDT

(Reuters) – A prominent Bahraini protest leader, Nabeel Rajab, was sentenced to three months in prison over a tweet against the prime minister which the court said insulted Bahrainis, Rajab’s lawyer and a colleague said. Continue reading Bahrain court jails protest leader over tweets: lawyer

Bahrain court eases sentences for medics in uprising

By Samia Nakhoul

MANAMA | Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:00am EDT

(Reuters) – A Bahrain court on Thursday reduced sentences on nine medics for their role in last year’s pro-democracy uprising and acquitted nine others, but rights groups said the case was politically motivated and should have been thrown out over use of torture.

The trial of the 20 medics, who are all Shi’ite Muslims, has drawn international criticism of the Gulf Arab state, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet and a U.S. ally. Continue reading Bahrain court eases sentences for medics in uprising

Bahrain king warns opposition over insults to army

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI | Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:39pm EDT

(Reuters) – Bahrain’s King Hamad said on Wednesday he would not allow any more “insults” of the armed forces in the Gulf state in an apparent warning to leading Shi’ite opposition party Wefaq after criticisms it leveled earlier this week.

The army, led by Field Marshal Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed, took charge of ending protests led by the Shi’ite Muslim majority that erupted last year after uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, enforcing a period of martial law.

It was aided by Saudi and United Arab Emirates forces which Manama called in after accusing Shi’ite neighbor Iran of fomenting the protests that threatened the grip of the ruling Al Khalifa family – Sunni allies of Riyadh and Washington.

“We have heard voices in recent days spreading hatred and abusing freedom of expression to the extent of insulting the Bahrain Defence Forces, and without doubt it is our duty not to allow this to be repeated,” the king said in a speech to senior military officers at their headquarters.

“The executive agencies must take the necessary legal measures to deter these violations,” he said in comments carried on the state news agency BNA.

Sheikh Ali Salman, leader of Wefaq, criticized the army at a rally on Tuesday, saying it would fail to suppress demands for democratic reforms in the island state.

“You wronged us, and you believe that what you did will stop us demanding our rights, but no matter what brute force you use, you will fail,” he said.

He also said that clerics have the ability to bring tens of thousands of Bahrainis onto the streets in protest.

Bahrain remains in a state of turmoil as Wefaq organizes weekly mass rallies, and protesters in Shi’ite villages and youths clash almost nightly with riot police.

The economy has slowed in the banking and tourism hub, which is also the base for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

On Wednesday prosecutors also called in senior Wefaq official Sayed Hadi al-Mousawi for questioning and extended the detention for another week of prominent activist Nabeel Rajab over a tweet criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman, who has occupied his post since 1971.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders expressed concern over what it called government reprisals against opposition figures and activists who attended a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva last month.

A secretly-filmed video from an unknown source was published on pro-government Internet forums and Twitter this month showing a prominent lawyer who has defended political activists sleeping with a woman, believed to be his wife.

Both Mousawi and the lawyer attended the Geneva meeting, in which the U.N. body expressed concern over harassment of activists who cooperated with its annual review of the country.

The lawyer has said the video was shot in 2008 and that he was threatened with its release when he was detained during the crackdown last year.

A government spokesman said releasing such a tape was “unacceptable” but that it was not clear why it became public.

“The tape in question has been alleged to be part of the person in question’s personal library and was allegedly obtained during the events of last year,” said Fahad Al-Binali.

MIDEAST MONEY-Bahrain economic reforms takes hit as hardliners battle uprising

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 14:00 GMT

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI, June 13 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s economic reforms – once hailed as the most ambitious in the Gulf – seems to have stalled as hardliners in the Sunni ruling family who see Shi’ite protesters as a threat to the state bring the programme under their wing.

Hawks within the Al Khalifa family asserted themselves after a pro-democracy protest movement led by the majority Shi’ite population erupted last year following successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. Continue reading MIDEAST MONEY-Bahrain economic reforms takes hit as hardliners battle uprising

Bahrain says group follows violent Shi’ite cleric

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI | Mon Jun 4, 2012 1:00pm EDT

(Reuters) – Bahrain justified moves to ban a small Islamist group on Monday by saying a radical Shi’ite cleric based abroad was its spiritual leader, while the move was seen by some as a renewed warning to leading Shi’ite opposition party Wefaq. Continue reading Bahrain says group follows violent Shi’ite cleric