Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bahrain lifts emergency rule

Bahrain on Wednesday lifted martial law in what the government hopes that tourists and businessmen perceived as a sign of return to normal, but the opposition fears that the crackdown will continue in the Persian Gulf kingdom. Bahrain is particularly interested in recovering the Formula 1 race. The opening of the Grand Prix in March was canceled due to clashes between police and pro-democracy protesters inspired by the uprisings of Tunisia and Egypt.

A meeting of the governing body for Formula 1 could return on Friday the race for this year, though the group Human Rights Watch has said it should take into account the strong repression of the opposition that he was subjected during the 11 weeks of martial law. The dusty streets of the capital Manama were quiet on Wednesday, but some Shiite villages had a large presence of riot police, according to activists on the Internet.

"If I had finished the emergency safety would not be here, but they are still here," said Ali Zirazdi, an unemployed 30 years, said police fired tear gas after a few hundred people gathered at Shiite village of Diraz. "The security presence is even stronger now their strategy is that every time you hear of any protest, to avoid coming before it happens," he said.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, whose family of Sunni Muslims ruling Shia-majority nation, on Tuesday offered a dialogue on reforms. While the king spoke, military prosecutors called four members of the main opposition party Wefaq and rights activist Nabeel Rajab for questioning. According to acquaintances, were released hours later.

"The purpose of national security law and the announcement of the dialogue are both positive. It would be a shame that someone is negative about it," said Sunni lawmaker Jamal Fakhro. But in a wall full of graffiti against the government, someone wrote: "If you really say they want a dialogue, will have to open the streets" and "Down with the ruling gang!".

Bahrain, which is among non-Arab Shiite Iran and Sunni dynasties allied with the United States of Persian Gulf oil region, is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet. Its leaders accuse Iran of orchestrating the protests through their relationship with Shiite groups. The Shiites, who comprise 60 percent of a million citizens of Bahrain, has long complained of discrimination, lack of employment and representation.

U.S. President Barack Obama criticized the repression in the nation in a speech last month, saying the Government should discuss with the leaders of the peaceful opposition. Activists called on the Internet at top speed and Shiite villages in Manama late on Wednesday. Appealing to the "loyalty to the blood of the martyrs," one of the ads calling for return to the Pearl roundabout, where the opposition camped out for a month.

Although the end of emergency rule in Bahrain military prosecutors can no longer appear to civilians, military courts processed a number of cases initiated while martial law was in effect from 15 March. Twenty opposition figures, seven of them abroad, face military trial on charges of attempting to overthrow the system.

Most belong to parties that demanded a republic. Rights advocates say they were tortured.

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