In the first test of Bahrain’s new ban on public protests, at least several dozen people have taken to the streets of small towns outside the capital to demonstrate against the jailing of a well-known opposition leader.
Chanting against the Gulf monarchy, the protesters called for the freeing of Hasan Mushaima, a leader of the Haq Movement and founder of the Wefaq Party, who has called for more democratic rights.
|Demonstrators chant for the downfall of the monarchy [YouTube]|
Mushaima was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2011 for helping to lead the uprising that saw tens of thousands of mostly Shia protesters demonstrating against the government in the street that year.
He remains in jail awaiting a retrial.
The protests on Friday, which began in the towns of Sanabis and Jidhafs, also appeared along various points on the main Budayya Road, which runs through the island.
Such informal protests occur almost every week, unlike the large and officially permitted marches organised by groups like Wefaq that attract far larger crowds.
The government said its ban on public rallies was supposed to calm the country after protesters and police officers had died during recent clashes and that the ban would be temporary.
Hadi al-Musawi, a Wefaq official, said the interior ministry order went “against international human rights”.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and representatives of the US government have also criticised the ban.
On Thursday, a civil court also sentenced an unnamed activist to six months in prison for insulting King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Rulings on three other Twitter users are expected next week.