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Middle East
Bahrain dissidents face charges
Accusations against 23 Shia suspects include forming 'terror network' aimed at toppling Gulf state's government.
Last Modified: 05 Sep 2010 10:50 GMT
Most of the suspects were arrested after a series of violent anti-government protests led by Shia Muslims [EPA]

Bahrain has accused 23 Shia Muslim activists of forming a "terror network" aimed at toppling the Gulf state's government, the official BNA news agency says.

The agency, citing the charge sheet on Saturday, said the suspects allegedly held secret meetings in Bahrain and abroad in order "to change the political regime through illegal means".

It identified 10 suspects, including eight opposition figures who have been detained since mid-August.

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

Abduljalil al-Singace, the chief suspect and leader of the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy, an opposition association, was charged with "running an illegitimate network," as well as "leading sabotage cells ... contacting foreign organisations and providing them with false and misleading information about the kingdom".

Similar charges

Seven other people, also arrested in mid-August, face similar charges and include Mohammed Saeed, a board member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

The charge sheet includes the names of 13 other Shia Muslims accused of "joining the network".

In another development, Ali Abdulemam, a well-known Bahraini blogger, was arrested on Sunday by Bahraini authorities for allegedly spreading "false news" on the activist portal BahrainOnline.org portal.

BahrainOnline is censored in Bahrain.

Abdulemam sent an email on Sunday to the Global Voices Advocacy website, saying he got a call from the national security authories just before his arrest. He said they arrested him and alleged that he was trying to flee.

Torture allegations

Mohammed al-Tajir, the detained activists' lawyer, said prosecutors were still interrogating the men and have not yet pressed formal charges.

He said that he had not been allowed to meet any of his clients since they were arrested.

Human Rights Watch, the New York-based rights advocate, urged the Bahraini authorities on Wednesday to investigate allegations of torture made by four of the activists.

Most of the suspects were among about 250 Shia Muslims arrested in the past month over allegations of disrupting public security, following a series of violent anti-government protests.

Shia majority

A majority of the detainees are members of Haq, which is a splinter group of the Islamic National Accord Association, the country's main Shia political organisation.

Bahrain has a Shia Muslim majority population but is ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family.

In the 1990s, the country was hit by a wave of sectarian unrest, which has abated since the authorities launched steps to convert the Gulf emirate into a constitutional monarchy.

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.

Source:
Agencies
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