Bahrain asks court to temporarily suspend two more opposition groups

MANAMA Thu Jul 24, 2014 1:13pm EDT

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MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain has asked a court to temporarily suspend the activities of two more opposition groups, state news agency BNA said on Thursday, in a move that could further deepen political tensions in the Gulf Arab state.

The decision came less than a week after the Justice Ministry filed a lawsuit against Bahrain's main opposition group, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, citing what it said were legal violations committed in running its activities.

Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, quelled a popular uprising in 2011 when majority Shi'ite Muslims led mass protests demanding a greater role in running the Sunni-ruled island state, but low level civil unrest has persisted.

BNA said the Justice Ministry had asked a court to stop the Justice and Development Movement (JDM) from working for three months "until it rectifies its legal status in accordance with the law and its own rules".

JDM officials were not immediately available to comment on the charges.The ministry also asked the court to suspend the National Democratic Action Society, known as Waad, for three months until it elects a new secretary-general.

Waad said it remained committed to its jailed leader, Ibrahim Sharif, who was sentenced to five years in prison in June 2011 on charges of assisting a "foreign terrorist group" in a coup plot. Waad regards Sharif as a prisoner of conscience.

"The objective which the (ministry) is after is to tighten the space for political work in Bahrain, especially the activities of opposition societies," Waad's acting head Rida al-Mousawi said in remarks published on its website.

The ministry's petitions to suspend the political associations comes ahead of general elections expected later this year, which the opposition has threatened to boycott.

Bahrain's opposition parties say the government must ensure that any vote reflects the will of the people.

Many Shi'ites complain of political and economic discrimination in Bahrain, a charge the authorities deny.

Last month, Bahrain ordered U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski to leave the country after he met leaders of Al-Wefaq.

Earlier this month, Bahraini authorities charged Al-Wefaq leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, and his political assistant, Khalil al-Marzouq, with holding an illegal meeting with a U.S. diplomat.

(Reporting by Farishta Saeed; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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