|Bahrain remains under a state of emergency since protests last month [EPA]
Bahraini authorities are seeking court approval to dissolve the country's main Shia opposition group in the strongest move yet against anti-government protesters calling for change.
The justice ministry said Thursday it was seeking to ban Wefaq, which called supporters onto the streets in mass protests last month, for "undertaking activities that harmed social peace, national unity, and inciting disrespect for constitutional institutions."
The ministry also moved to ban the Islamic Action party, a Wefaq ally. Wefaq is the biggest single party in Bahrain's parliament, holding 18 out of 40 seats.
Mattar Ibrahim Mattar, a former Wefaq member of parliament, says: "It's reached a stage where they say there are no more moderates, that the entire opposition consists of extremists. This is the wrong message.
"The hardliners (in government) never wanted Wefaq to take part in elections and get seats in parliament".
Wefaq said in a statement that it had always complied with Bahraini laws and regulations and that it was still committed to a political solution to Bahrain's political crisis.
Bahrain remains under a state of emergency following a government crackdown on protests last month.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent troops to the Gulf island nation to help quell the demonstrations and protect facilities including oil and gas installations and financial institutions.
According to the Bahrain Human Rights Council, the Bahraini government has arrested more than 370 opponents of the regime since the introduction of emergency rule.
Thousands of protesters – many of them Shias frustrated with economic and political discrimination – had staged daily rallies in Manama calling for greater democracy but protests have been quelled in recent weeks with a heavy security presence on the streets.
Wefaq bemoaned the use of foreign troops which arrived less than 24 hours after Bahraini police clashed with demonstrators in one of the most violent confrontations which left seven protesters dead.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states have traded accusations with Iran of meddling and interference in Bahrain which is also home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.