x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Opposition trio accused of terrorist bomb links

Three opposition figures critical of the Bahrain government are charged with having links to a terrorist group allegedly planning a series of bombings.

Protesters set rubbish bins on fire during clashes in Bilad Al Qadeem village on the outskirts of the Bahraini capital Manama on Monday.
Protesters set rubbish bins on fire during clashes in Bilad Al Qadeem village on the outskirts of the Bahraini capital Manama on Monday.

MANAMA // Three opposition figures critical of the government were yesterday charged with having links to a terrorist group allegedly planning a series of bombings during Bahrain's National Day celebrations last month. The announcement of the charges led to clashes between police and supporters of the three men. Hasan Mushaima, the secretary general of the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy, AbdulJalil al Singace, the group's spokesman and head of its human rights committee, and Sheikh Mohammed Habib al Miqdad, a Shiite clergyman closely allied to the movement, were seized at their homes on Monday. They have been charged under the country's antiterrorism law with establishing an illegal organisation that seeks to disrupt the rule of law as well as organising and financing an outlawed group and incitement against the government.

The three had earlier refused to abide by a request by the public prosecution to appear for questioning on Sunday. Mr Mushaima was questioned for eight hours while the other two were each questioned for three hours, according to their lawyers who were also present at the interrogation. The headquarters of the public prosecution was under heavy guard as the three were questioned. Mr Mushaima and Mr al Miqdad were ordered to be held by police for further investigation, while Mr al Singace was released on bail.

Lawyers for the three confirmed that the charges were linked to allegations they were involved with a group that the government said was planning to detonate homemade explosives to disrupt the National Day holiday on Dec 16. The plot was foiled by security services. Shortly afterwards, Bahrain's minister of interior, Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, accused Bahraini opposition leaders based in London of masterminding and training the group planning to carry out the attacks. He also revealed that some of those detained, all Shiites and numbering 18 to date, had received military training in Syria during July and August of 2008. "They travelled under the guise of visiting religious sites in Syria where they were met by a Bahraini living in London, who arranged and carried out their intensive training programme on how to make bombs and explosives," he said during a press conference on Dec 27, citing sources he refused to reveal. While he did not name the two ring leaders, sources said that they are believed to be the leader of the Bahrain Freedom Movement in London and the former head of the Bahrain Martyrs and Victims of Torture Committee. "The suspects confessed that their leadership came under the two Bahrainis who reside in Britain and that they were the ones who arranged for their recruitment and training," Sheikh Rashid said. "They also revealed that the Bahraini leaders in Britain were planning to smuggle a large quantity of weapons to Bahrain for use in acts of violence, sabotage and terrorism to disrupt security and public order." Haq has dismissed the allegations it was linked to the terror plot as a political move aimed at discrediting and silencing the opposition. The arrest of three men sparked wide spread protests and clashes on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, in the villages where the three came from, hundreds of their supporters threw Molotov cocktails and stones at police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. According to sources at least four people were arrested on Monday. This month, Abdulhadi al Khawaja, the protection co-ordinator for the Middle East at Front Line - an organisation defending human rights activists - and former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, had similar charges brought against him by the public prosecution. Mr al Khawaja, who has expressed support for a number of Haq positions on political and social issues, was questioned for five hours about speeches he had made before being released on bail pending further legal action. Haq, which remains unregistered under Bahraini law, was formed in Nov 2005 as a breakaway faction of the largest Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq, after Al Wefaq decided to end its boycott of parliamentary elections. Mr Mushaima, a former deputy head and co-founder of Al Wefaq, became the secretary general, attracting a number of Al Wefaq leadership and supporters. It has also attracted Sunni and secular nationalists. The group continues to refuse to recognise the 2002 constitution and calls for the advancement of the 1973 constitution that it believes gives more power to an independent, fully elected legislature. mmahdi@thenational.ae