MANAMA: Bahraini authorities have detained four more Shiite activists on security grounds, raising the stakes in the run-up to parliamentary elections after earlier arrests were criticized by rights groups.
Ahlul Bayt News Agency, MANAMA: Bahraini authorities have detained four more Shiite activists on security grounds, raising the stakes in the run-up to parliamentary elections after earlier arrests were criticized by rights groups.The detentions bring to eight the number of activists and clerics arrested over the past week. The detainees include Mohammad Saeed, a Â board member of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights â€“ whose operations were formally suspended in 2004 but which continues to operate â€“ the state news agency said.
â€œThe organizationâ€™s network aimed at compromising national security and harming the stability of the country,â€ the national news agency said late on Tuesday, citing a security source.
It said the group had funded violent protests in different parts of Bahrain. Government officials either declined to comment or could not be reached.
Bahrain, a Gulf Arab island kingdom, is governed by a Sunni ruling family and has a majority Shiite population that complains of discrimination in jobs and services, an accusation the government denies.
The sectarian balance of Bahrain, home to the US Navyâ€™s Fifth Fleet, also concerns top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which has a Shiite minority population in its Eastern Province adjacent to Bahrain.
Diplomats say the arrests appeared to be an effort to push the Shiite opposition to temper protests ahead of parliamentary elections due on October 23.
Bahrain has the only elected parliament in the Gulf Arab region besides Kuwait, even though its powers are limited as bills need to be approved by an upper house whose members are appointed by the king.
Bahrain earlier detained four other Shiite activists, including Abduljalil Singace from the mainly Shiite Haq movement, saying they had formed a network to undermine the stability of the country.
The Haq movement disputes the legitimacy of the reform process launched by Bahrainâ€™s king about a decade ago, after which the Shiite unrest of the 1990s abated.
Haq is expected to boycott the October poll.
New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Bahrain to either free Singace and those arrested with him, or bring formal charges against them.
â€œA country that respects human rights, as Bahrain claims to do, does not arrest people just because they harshly criticize the government,â€ Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said in the statement.
Abduljalil Singace was arrested on Friday when he returned from London where he had spoken about human rights in Bahrain to the House of Lords, and his arrest sparked clashes in Shiite villages that continued until Tuesday.
Mohammad al-Tajer, a lawyer for six of the eight activists and clerics arrested, said he had still not been able to contact the defendants.