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Middle East
Bahrain accepts resignation of opposition MPs
Resignations over crackdown leave lower house with just 22 members as more accusations of torture are levelled.
Last Modified: 17 May 2011 15:01
Human Rights Watch has called on Bahrain to set up an impartial commission to investigate torture llegations [Reuters]

Bahrian's parliament has accepted the resignations of the last seven lawmakers of Al Wefaq, the country's largest Shia opposition party.

The resignations, approved on Tuesday, were submitted in February in protest over the government's brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrations. The lawmakers acted alongside 11 other Shia opposition members of parliament whose resignations were previously accepted.

Bahrain's 40 member lower house of parliament is now left with 22 lawmakers and is controlled by Sunnis.

The lower house was created in 2002 under a new constitution aimed at easing Shia complaints of perceived second-class status.

There is also an upper house of parliament whose 40 members are appointed by the king.

Shias make up about 70 percent of the population in the kingdom ruled by a 200-year-old Sunni dynasty, but are largely excluded from top government and security posts.

Shias were the driving force behind protests calling for political reforms that began in February.

Bahraini authorities have been seeking to prosecute opposition leaders and other protesters perceived to be linked to clashes and protests in the Gulf Arab nation.

'Threatened with rape'

A special security court set up under martial law is trying 21 mostly Shia opposition leaders and political activists accused of plotting against the state.

One of those 21 - a prominent Bahraini human rights activist - has said he had been threatened with rape while in custody after he refused to apologise to the Bahraini over his role in anti-government protests.

Human rights groups said Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), was removed from a military court on Monday on the third day of his trial after he told the judge about his treatment.

The rights groups said Khawaja told family members and his lawyer that he had been taken on Friday by four men to an unknown location where a man there told him he was a representative of the king and began to question him.

They asked him if he would like to apologise in a video message and he refused, then he was taken to a room where the men "started to use foul language and threatened him with rape", the rights groups said, adding they also threatened to rape his activist daughter.

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"At this point the men started undressing and showing their private parts after which they started touching Mr Khawaja inappropriately," the rights groups reported.

"When they tried to take off his pants, he threw himself down and started hitting his head on the ground continuously until he almost passed out. Seeing this they returned him to his prison cell."

Khawaja said that despite prior complaints the court had not taken action to secure his safety.

"The judge refused to listen to these statements and Mr Alkhawaja was ordered out of the courtroom," the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said in a joint statement.

Khawaja has in all three trial sessions so far voiced allegations of abuse but was silenced by the judge on each occasion, the two rights groups said in their statement.

Source:
Agencies
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