DUBAI Oct 30 Bahrain has banned all rallies and
gatherings to ensure public safety and prevent violence, the
state news agency reported, following more than a year of
protests by opposition demonstrators.
The Sunni-ruled island kingdom, where the U.S. Navy's Fifth
Fleet is based, has seen repeated protests since an uprising led
by its Shi'ite majority for political reforms that began in
February 2011 was crushed with help from Saudi troops last year.
"It has been decided to stop all gatherings and marches and
not to allow any activity before being reassured about security
and achieving the required stability in order to preserve
national unity," state news agency BNA quoted Interior Minister
Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa as saying late on Monday.
"Any marches or gatherings will be dealt with as unlicensed
and legal procedures will be taken against those calling for or
participating in them," he added.
Sheikh Rashed said the violence that had accompanied marches
and gatherings in the kingdom had disrupted traffic, affected
trade and the economy and damaged private property.
He said march organisers, including the leading opposition
party Wefaq, had failed to control protesters in the past.
The Gulf Arab state has banned a series of protests
organised by Wefaq in past months. A senior official said in
July that the government had no plans to ban rallies outright,
but wanted to ensure they did not turn violent.
The opposition described the bans on Wefaq marches as an
attempt to silence them. Amnesty International also criticised
the bans as a violation of fundamental rights.
Since April the authorities have stepped up efforts to crack
down on unrest. Activists cite an increased use of shotgun
pellets, whose use authorities have declined to confirm or deny.
Activists have been sentenced to jail in past months for
organising or taking part in unlicensed anti-government