ABU DHABI ø Bahrain, rocked by a year of increasingly violent
Shi'ite protests, plans to curtail the right to assemble and protest.
Officials said the kingdom's parliament would be presented with a
package of legislation that would reduce the freedom of assembly. They said
this would include restrictions on rallies, public meetings and other
The Cabinet was briefed on the new legislation on Oct. 31 during a
meeting chaired by Prime Minister Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa. Officials
said the Cabinet approved the principles enumerated in the draft
Bahrain has been rocked by increasingly violent Shi'ite protests
connected to demands for greater representation as well as the kingdom's
pro-U.S. policy. Over the last month, Shi'ites have protested the arrest and
prosecution of an opposition leader, Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja. Shi'ites form
the majority of the Sunni-led kingdom and Bahraini officials have asserted
that community leaders were supported by Iran.
"The [Shura] Council has been following with great concern the
escalating and unruly incidents, that have caused great harm to the
country's economic achievements and political stability," a statement from
the kingdom's consultative panel said. "Harming the country's reputation and
threatening its security and stability is not acceptable for any motive."
[On Monday, a Bahraini court released four suspects charged with
planning a bombing campaign in the kingdom. The suspects, released without
bail until their trial resumes on Dec. 6, were Sunni Muslims and included a
leading preacher linked to Al Qaida.]
The height of the unrest took place on Oct. 29 when unidentified
assailants attacked police and civil defense forces in Manama. The
assailants hurled firebombs toward a police car and civil defense patrol.
"We do not want confrontation," said Ali Salman, leader of Al Wefaq
Islamic Society, a Shi'ite opposition group.
Officials said the legislation would not ban protests. But they said the
proposed laws would seek to guarantee that protests remain peaceful.
At the same time, the government has approved a series of bonuses for
the security forces. Khalifa said this would include the Bahrain Defense
Forces, National Guard and police. The prime minister also ordered the
Interior and Defense Ministry officials to draft criteria for assessing the
performance of their staff.