Bahrain attacks Western 'interference' following political party ban

Bahrain attacks Western 'interference' following political party ban
Following condemnation about Bahrain's dissolving of the country's largest opposition party by Western allies, Manama has gone on the defensive, accusing critics of 'interference'.
2 min read
19 July, 2016
Bahrain has been hit with unrest since uprisings in 2011 [AFP]

Bahrain has hit back at criticism from Western allies, after a political opposition party linked to the island's Shia majority was banned.

A decision by a Bahraini court to dissolve the al-Wefaq - the largest faction in parliament before the 2011 uprising against the government - has been met with condemnation from countries across the world.

This includes European states and the US, considered generally friendly towards the regime.

But Bahrain has hit back, accusing critical countries of meddling in its internal affairs.

"Such statements and positions are unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom of Bahrain - and in the decisions of the Bahraini judicial process - which provides all necessary standards of justice, fairness, transparency and independence," the foreign ministry said.

"[The] statements are unjustified and only give encouragement to groups which support extremism and terrorism."

Bahrain added that it hoped "friendly and allied countries take into account the interests" of the contry, just as it "is keen to take into account the interests of all allies and partners in order to preserve their distinctive historical relations, and to ensure security and stability in the region".

Bahrain shares generally good relations with the West. The island is home to the US Fifth Fleet, while the UK is building its first permanent Middle East military base for nearly 50 years on Bahraini soil.

However, Western governments and NGOs are becoming increasingly critical of the regime's clampdown on the country's Shia majority, and alleged use of torture and disappearances.

Bahrain's Gulf neighbours helped crush 2011 protests for a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

US Secretary of State John Kerry described the latest ban as the "latest in a series of disconcerting ‎steps in Bahrain" and urged the government to "reverse these and other recent measures (and) return urgently to the path of reconciliation".

The UK's new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has also called on Bahrain "to guarantee and protect political freedoms for all its citizens".

Al-Weqaf's leader Ali Salman is serving a nine-year jail term on charges of inciting violence after a court more than doubled his sentence last year.

Bahraini human rights groups yesterday accused the government of slapping travel bans on Bahraini activists.

Authorities have also stripped at least 261 people of their citizenship since 2012, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

Meanwhile, well-known Bahraini human rights campaigner Nabeel Rajab remains in detention and due in court next month with the EU criticising Manama for his detention.

Agencies contributed to this story.