A Bahraini appeals court has upheld an earlier decision to dissolve the main Shia opposition group in the Persian Gulf country as the Manama regime presses ahead with its crackdown on critics despite widespread censure.
In June, a Bahraini lower court ordered the closure of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society’s offices.
One month later, the court ordered the dissolution of the group over alleged accusations of "harboring terrorism," inciting violence and encouraging protests that threatened to spark sectarian strife. It further ruled that Wefaq’s funds must be seized by the Manama regime.
The move sparked criticism from the United Nations as well as the Al Khalifah regime's allies in Washington and London.
On Thursday, the appeals court upheld the lower court's July decision despite the fact that Wefaq's defense team had withdrawn from proceedings in protest at Manama’s push to accelerate the trial.
Wefaq’s Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Hussein Addehi denounced Thursday’s ruling as “a dangerous step to declare a state of absolute unilateralism, the military rule and the absence of a modern state.”
Amnesty International also condemned the court ruling as a "flagrant attack on freedom of expression and association and a brazen attempt to suppress criticism of the government in Bahrain."
"The Bahraini authorities have not presented any credible evidence that Wefaq is anything but a peaceful opposition movement which has been seeking reform in the country in the face of increasing government repression," said Amnesty's Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther.
Back in May, a court increased from four to nine years the prison term for Sheikh Ali Salman, Wefaq’s secretary general. The cleric was arrested in December 2014 on charges of attempting to overthrow the Bahraini regime and collaborating with foreign powers; allegations rejected by the cleric.
Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has seen a wave of anti-regime protests since mid-February 2011.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others wounded or detained amid Manama’s ongoing crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the Shia majority.
Several rights groups have frequently censured Bahrain for rampant human rights abuses against opposition activists and anti-regime demonstrators.