DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bahrain suspended the tiny island kingdom’s largest Shiite political group and froze its assets on Tuesday as part of a widening crackdown on activists and dissent five years after the country’s Arab Spring protests.
The Al-Wefaq opposition group has been suspended before as Bahrain has been embroiled in turmoil over the protests and lingering unrest that followed in the years since the demonstrations. However, Bahrain’s Sunni-ruled government increasingly has targeted activists in recent days, which has seen one flee for Denmark and another, previously pardoned by its king, detained again.
A Justice Ministry statement carried on the state-run Bahrain News Agency said it made the decision to suspend Al-Wefaq to “safeguard the security of the kingdom.” Party officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
The announcement came a day after authorities detained Nabeel Rajab, a prominent activist and the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Zainab al-Khawaja, another prominent activist, fled for Denmark in recent days over fears of being imprisoned again.
Bahrain’s 2011 demonstrations saw the island’s majority Shiite population and others demand more political freedoms from its Sunni rulers. The protests on the island, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, were crushed by the government with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Since then, the island has faced low-level unrest, protests and attacks on police.
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