x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Arrests in Bahrain 'not connected' to elections

Arrests carried out before elections last month in Bahrain were not politically motivated, the country's foreign minister said.

Arrests carried out before elections last month in Bahrain were not politically motivated, the country's foreign minister said.

Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa praised the turnout at the parliamentary elections, and said they represented a step forward in the island nation's democratic experience.

Critics of Bahrain's government complained before the elections about what they said was repression of opposition activists, and several opposition parties boycotted the poll.

But Sheikh Khalid said: "When there is crime or terrorism, it is dealt with in the courts, but the democratic process and the elections were not and will not be affected."

The arrests were not related to the elections, he said, and their timing was coincidental.

"It has no relation. The state cannot tell a person when to do his crime," he said. "There are no political considerations for when we arrest criminals."

Once evidence for crimes is accumulated the government makes the arrests, and those arrested were charged with terrorism, spreading chaos, arson and threatening the lives of citizens, he said.

Turnout in the elections was 67.7 per cent, "which is a large turnout even compared to large, democratic countries", he said.

"This is evidence of the commitment of the state and the people to this democratic process," Sheikh Khalid said. "It develops day after day and we are very happy with its success."

That success was bolstered because security operations were unrelated to the election process, he said.

Elections in the region would always come under the spotlight, he said.

"For the international media, the issue of elections is always interesting, particularly if we have elections in the Arab region," he said.

The elections resulted in the main Shiite opposition group, al Wefaq, gaining one seat in the lower house of parliament.

kshaheen@thenational.ae