The Bahraini government has taken legal action against Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the country’s largest opposition party. The announcement came on Friday following protests in the capital city of Manama.
Six protesters were arrested and accused of being involved in acts of rioting and sabotage, according to the Interior Ministry. The ministry also accused the detainees of “terrorizing innocent people and traders” and “sparking panic and blocking roads.”
“The Interior Ministry holds Al-Wefaq responsible for violating the law and encouraging their supporters to take part in a non-sanctioned event,” the Friday statement read, “the Ministry affirms its support for free speech but reminds all citizens that the freedom of expression does not include acts of vandalism, spreading of fear in the community and attempts to create chaos. The Ministry has taken action to file a case against Al-Wefaq which will be referred to the Public Prosecutor.”
The Interior Ministry maintained that it denied permission for protesting in Manama due to security concerns and the affect it would have on traffic in the capital.
The popular political party fired back at the Interior Ministry in a statement on Saturday, “the statement issued by the Ministry of Interior is filled with explicit lies and obvious distortions in discussing matters not made from peaceful, civilised, public marches that were in the highest levels of discipline and committed to preserving all property.”
The party accused the police of committing illegal acts, which include brutality towards protesters, using batons and tear gas.
Al-Wefaq possesses more members than any other political party in Bahrain and occupied 18 seats of the 40-member parliament until its MPs resigned following a government crackdown on protesters. The party’s ideology follows Shi’a Islam, the religion of the majority of the Bahraini population. Although Al-Wefaq has popular support, its powers in parliament were checked due to coalitions loyal to the ruling Sunni family.
Friday’s protests came in response to the High Court of Appeals upholding jail sentences for 20 prominent activists, eight of whom face life imprisonment.
On Saturday Al-Wefaq held a conference titled “What after the BICI report?” to discuss the report that was released last year outlining human rights abuses during crackdowns on protesters in the kingdom.