Bahraini King says ‘door for dialogue open,’ hails country’s defense ministry
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa said that the “door for dialogue is open,” when he addressed the new National Assembly on Sunday.
Al-Khalifa said that the visions for a consensus on national dialogue represent a “national desire” to start a new phase to understand what the country is going through, Al Arabiya TV reported him as saying.
He added that these visions “have led to new important constitutional amendments,” that will cement democracy and consolidate transparency, human rights and freedom of expression.
In May, the King has approved amendments to the country’s constitution that give more power to the parliament by allowing it to have more control over government ministers.
While the King hailed the armed forces and the defense ministry in “protecting the country,” he said that the “council of Human Rights accepting a report by Bahrain is a confirmation of trust that the international community has in Bahrain,” he said.
In September, the U.N. Human Rights Council accepted Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). President of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Laura Dupuy Lasserre, hailed the Kingdom for providing voluntarily an interim report to the Council prior to the next UPR.
Bahraini rulers have blamed foreign countries such as Iran for manipulating sectarian differences in the Gulf state. Iranian threats against Bahrain include possible aggravations in the coastal waters of the Gulf state as well as air attacks by Iranian-made missiles.
Opposition groups in Bahrain demand a representative parliament in a country that has Shiites forming majority ruled by a Sunni monarchy.
He also rebuffed any foreign intervention in the Kingdom’s internal affairs and warned of a “group” of people that work to incite upheaval in the Gulf state.
Bahrain police, meanwhile, on Sunday questioned cleric Sheikh Ali Salman, who heads the largest Shiite opposition formation Al-Wefaq, over remarks related to “sectarian and security” matters, AFP reported authorities as saying.
Criminal investigation police questioned him in the presence of two lawyers over statements he made during a visit to Egypt earlier this month, according to a statement carried by the BNA state news agency.
Salman admitted referring to a “revolution in Bahrain” but said he “did not mean toppling the regime, while he meant demanding freedom, democracy, equality and respect for human rights,” BNA said.
The influential cleric also said that Wefaq “rejects violence from all sides, whether from the public or from the government,” and denied harming relations between Bahrain and Egypt.
BNA said Salman’s statement will be referred to the public prosecution service which will decide whether to press charges.
Al-Wefaq slammed the summoning of its leader for questioning, calling it a “trial for political practice and opinion, which falls under the regime’s security approach of confiscating rights and freedoms.”
Medics go on strike
Five medics jailed in connection with last year’s anti-regime protests in Bahrain went on hunger strike on Sunday, urging international rights groups to campaign for their release, AFP reported lawyers as saying.
The Shiite medics, who have been in prison since October 1 after the Gulf kingdom’s highest court upheld their prison sentences, called their action “The Lost Justice,” and have stopped taking food and medicine, the lawyers said.
A sixth medic has been released because of time already served.
The medics reiterated accusations that the authorities used “harsh and systematic torture” during months of initial detention in the wake of a deadly crackdown on protests in March last year.
Sporadic protests still take place in Bahrain’s mainly Shiite neighborhoods, often sparking sometimes deadly clashes with police.