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EU parliament condemns Bahrain's 'campaign of repression'

Parliamentarians urge EU leaders to press Bahrain authorities over recent escalation against activists, country's leading opposition party
Clash in April between Bahraini protesters, riot police after funeral of teenager whose family says died of injuries suffered in police chase (AFP)

European parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to condemn a crackdown in Bahrain over the past month that has seen human rights activists jailed and officials move to dissolve the country’s leading opposition party.

The resolution “expresses grave concern about the ongoing campaign of repression” and called for the immediate release of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Al-Wefaq opposition party.

It also called for the release of arbitrarily detained prisoners and the end of citizenship stripping, highlighting the case of Sheikh Isa Qassim, a leading Shia cleric whose citizenship was taken on 20 June, fuelling protests in his village near Manama.

More than 300 other Bahrainis, including politicians, journalists and senior religious authorities, have also been “unfairly” stripped of their citizenship, the European Parliament said in a statement after the vote.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said the resolution was a landmark decision.

“The majority of EU parliamentarians have condemned Bahrain for its terrible human rights record and recent crackdown,” he said in a statement.  “This must be translated to action by member states."

In addition to the stripping of Qassim’s citizenship, the past month has seen:

  • Zainab al-Khawaja, another Bahraini human rights activist, forced into exile early in June after she said she was threatened with re-arrest and indefinite separation from her children. Al-Khawaja had recently been released from prison after controversially ripping up an image of the country’s king.
  • Bahraini human rights advocate Nabeel Rajab arrested on 13 June on charges of “spreading rumours during wartime” and “insulting a statutory body”. After he was jailed 15 days in solitary confinement, Rajab was rushed to a hospital with an irregular heartbeat and was later returned to jail.
  • The activities of Al-Wefaq, the largest bloc in Bahrain’s parliament, suspended on 14 June by a Bahraini administrative court and proceedings to dissolve the party move forward.
  • Reports that Bahrainis in Qassim’s village have been systematically cut off from the internet and mobile coverage while automated Twitter accounts have bombarded popular local hashtags with sectarian, anti-Shia content

EU leaders were encouraged, in the resolution, to press their concerns with Bahraini officials in forthcoming high-level meetings, including EU-Gulf Cooperation Council ministerial meetings scheduled for later this month.

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