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Bahrain says Shi’ite figures plotted overthrow

Bahrain says to charge 23 Shi'ite opposition figures; Says they plotted to overthrow monarchy through violence.

September 5, 2010 4:08 by

Bahrain on Saturday accused more than 20 Shi’ite opposition leaders arrested in a broad crackdown of plotting to overthrow the Gulf state’s monarchy by promoting violent protests and acts of sabotage.

State media quoted prosecutors as saying they would bring charges against the 23 men, two of whom are abroad and not under arrest. They include prominent Shi’ite Muslim clerics and human rights activists.

Bahraini public prosecution official Abdulrahman al-Sayed said in a statement that the men were the leaders of a “sophisticated terrorist network” suspected of “the planning and instigation of violence … and seeking to overthrow the regime by force”.

The detentions have sparked widespread protests, some violent, in the small Gulf island state, where a parliamentary election is due on Oct. 23.

Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is governed by a Sunni monarchy but has a majority Shi’ite population that complains of discrimination in jobs and services. The government denies the accusation.

Night-time clashes between security forces and young Shi’ite protesters burning tyres and throwing petrol bombs are a frequent occurrence in Bahrain, a regional offshore banking hub.

Diplomats say the arrests appear to be an effort to press the opposition to temper protests before the election.

Other analysts say the arrests may signal the end of a reform process launched by Bahrain’s king about a decade ago, after which Shi’ite unrest of the 1990s abated.

Prosecution official Sayed said in the statement:

“This sophisticated terrorist network with operations inside and outside Bahrain has undertaken and planned a systematic and multi-layered campaign of violence and subversion aimed squarely at undermining the national security of Bahrain.”

Western human rights groups have voiced concern, and urged Bahrain to investigate allegations by some opposition activists that they have been tortured in detention.

Bahrain has banned media from reporting on the cases of some of those held, including Abduljalil Singace of the mainly Shi’ite opposition group al Haq.

State media said on Saturday those expected to be charged also included leading figures from the Al Wafa Movement, the banned Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, and the London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement.

Bahrain has the only elected parliament in the Gulf Arab region apart from Kuwait, although bills need to be approved by an upper house whose members are appointed by the king.

(Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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