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Bahrain’s dissolution of opposition political party against freedom of speech: EU

The European Union says Bahrain’s dissolution of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad) “contravenes provisions on the freedoms of speech and association,” a day after a court in Manama upheld a ruling on banning the major opposition party.

The European External Action Service of the EU made the comment in a statement released on Friday, saying the controversial ruling violates those freedoms that have been “enshrined” in Bahrain’s constitution “and therefore risks further polarizing” the society of the Persian Gulf’s island country.

“The European Union has repeatedly expressed this position to the authorities in Manama, who have a duty to ensure that citizens of Bahrain retain their ability to create and participate in political parties, in full respect of their political and civil rights,” the statement read.

The EU’s response came a day after Bahrain’s High Appeals Court upheld a decision by the country’s Appeals Court to dissolve Wa’ad, some four months after the latter court banned the leftist party on “terror” charges. The opposition society has strongly rejected the allegations.

The ban, at the time, was condemned by Amnesty International, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, and some other rights groups.

Last year, Bahraini authorities dissolved the country’s main Shia opposition group, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, as well as Islamic Enlightenment Society (Tawiya) and al-Risala Society.

Sheikh Isa Qassim, Wefaq’s spiritual leader, was stripped of his citizenship in June last year over accusations that he had used his position to serve foreign interests and promote sectarianism and violence. Despite denying the charges, the cleric was handed a suspended one-year prison term and ordered to pay a fine earlier this month.

The ruling against the prominent Shia cleric also sparked widespread protests and condemnations.

Home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Bahrain has been engaged in a crackdown on opposition political activity and dissent since an uprising began in 2011 against the ruling Aal-e Khalifah regime.

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