x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Court rules Bahrain king's emergency call was legal

Decision comes as arrests made in Shiite villages amid unrest.

A Bahraini court yesterday ruled that the king acted lawfully when he declared a quasi state of emergency in March ahead of a crackdown on Shiite-led protests.

The constitutional court “rejected the appeal into the constitutionality” of the state of National Safety, the state news agency reported.

National Safety is the first of two categories of exceptional measures that the king can resort to in times of emergency. The second is a full state of Martial Law.

An independent commission that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had tasked with investigating the crackdown on a month-long protest in mid-March had recommended that the constitutional court review the royal declaration of a three-month state of National Safety.

The commission found 35 people were killed in the purge on protests, including five security personnel and five detainees who were tortured to death in custody. Hundreds more were hurt.

The defence teams of scores of the predominantly Shiite defendants who appeared before the National Safety Court had questioned the legality of the royal decree.

“This decree violated the laws of Bahrain. Many laws were suspended due to the decree,” said Matar Matar, a leading figure in Al Wefaq, the main Shiite opposition group.

Tensions have remained high in Bahrain since the crackdown last spring.

Sporadic violence has risen in recent weeks as the first anniversary approaches of the launch of the protests against the government. On Tuesday, Bahraini police dispersed anti-government protesters who blocked roads in several villages, a government statement said yesterday.

The public security chief, Major General Tariq Al Hassan, said that “vandals blocked roads” and threw petrol bombs during clashes on Tuesday night.

Gen Al Hassan added that security forces made “several arrests” in Shiite villages, but did not give the exact location of the clashes or if there were any injuries.

On Monday, the US said it was relocating embassy staff and their families to new neighbourhoods in Manama as part of safety precautions amid anti-government unrest.

Bahrain’s Shiite community, a majority in the kingdom ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa dynasty, has complained of marginalisation.