x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Bahrain amends law to ban Manama protests

Bahrain's King Hamad has banned protests in Manama in an amendment to a law on public gatherings, ahead of a major opposition demonstration called for mid-August.

DUBAI // Bahrain's King Hamad has banned protests in Manama in an amendment to a law on public gatherings, ahead of a major opposition demonstration called for mid-August, state news agency BNA reported.

The monarch, whose kingdom has been rocked by Shiite-led protests since 2011, also toughened penalties against the guardians of minors caught taking part in protests, BNA said late on Tuesday.

His decree modifies the law to "ban organising protests, rallies, gatherings or sit-ins in Manama, with the exception of sit-ins outside (offices of) international organisations" in the capital held with written police authorisation, said BNA.

Authorities have already decided to ban the mid-August protest and threatened to severely punish those who take part.

The monarch also amended a juvenile law to hold guardians responsible for "the social dangers facing minors taking part in demonstrations".

Guardians will be given a warning the first time a juvenile is caught taking part in protests. If the act is repeated, the minor will undergo vocational training or be sent to a social care centre, BNA reported.

The amendment stipulated stiffer penalties against guardians who will be jailed for a minimum of one year, fined, or both, it said.

Shiite demonstrators have kept up their protests against the ruling Sunni monarchy despite a 2011 crackdown backed by Saudi-led Gulf troops, sparking repeated clashes with security forces.

Young protesters frequently take to the streets during late-night hours. But the demonstrations have been confined to Shiite villages surrounding Manama.

King Hamad this month decreed stiffer penalties for "terror acts" in the Shiite-majority country.

The authorities report a growing number of shootings and bombings targeting police stations and patrols in Shiite villages outside Manama, blaming "terrorists" for the attacks.

At least 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since anti-regime protests erupted two years ago, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

Strategically located across the Gulf from Shiite Iran, Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and is an offshore financial and services centre for its oil-rich Arab neighbours in the Gulf.