Bahrain bans main opposition for 3 months



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14/10/28  A Bahrain court banned the Gulf state s main opposition movement for three monthsjust weeks before a parliamentary election the group had already said it would boycott. Al-Wefaq said it was seriously concerned by the move, which it described as "irrational and irresponsible." The Manama administrative court ruled that Al-Wefaq, which draws most of its support from Sunni-ruled kingdom s Shiite majority, had violated the law on associations. It gave the group three months to regularise its status. Political parties are banned in key US ally Bahrain, as in other Gulf Arab monarchies, and Al-Wefaq has the status of an association. "The tyrannical dictatorship in Bahrain is ruling with an iron fist and moving to destroy the political and social life by blocking the people out," Al-Wefaq said in an English-language statement received by AFP. In July, the justice ministry filed suit against Al-Wefaq, insisting the bloc must rectify its "illegal status following the annulment of four general assemblies for lack of a quorum and the non-commitment to the public and transparency requirements for holding them." The ministry accused Al-Wefaq of breaking the law and failing to "amend violations related to its illegal general assemblies and the consequent invalidity of all its decisions." The United States had voiced "strong concerns" over the lawsuit, warning of its potential impact on the November 22 polls.

Elections for a new 40-seat lower house of parliament are the first since 2011 protests demanding more representative democracy. Municipal elections will be held simultaneously. Al-Wefaq, which led the protest movement against the Sunni regime, made slender gains in the last election, in 2010. But it withdrew its 18 MPs after the government crushed the protests in March 2011.

Bahrain, home to the US Navy s Fifth Fleet, is a member of the US-led coalition in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.