Arab News — MANAMA, 18 November 2006 — Hundreds of opposition activists demonstrated in Manama yesterday to demand a probe into an alleged plot to rig upcoming elections and to change the country’s demographic makeup by granting citizenship to foreigners.
Two activists of Haq, the mainly Shiite opposition group which called the protest, were arrested on the eve of the rally, the group said.
The protesters, gathered outside a mosque, chanted slogans demanding the resignation of the government and raised banners calling on authorities to come clean on the so-called “Bandargate” affair.
“We refuse the Iraqization of Bahrain,” read one banner, referring to the bloody Shiite-Sunni infighting in Iraq.
Riot police closed off roads leading to the mosque in the Ras Al-Rumman district of northern Manama, forcing the protesters to call off plans for a march, but the rally passed off peacefully.
Haq, or Movement of Liberties and Democracy, said Thursday it had asked UN chief Kofi Annan to set up an inquiry into the alleged plot to rig the Nov. 25 legislative elections.
The group, which also includes some Sunni opposition figures, was referring to a controversial report by purported British spy Salah Al-Bandar.
In a letter addressed to the UN secretary-general and delivered to Sayed Aqa, the UN Development Program’s (UNDP) Bahrain coordinator, Haq called for the forming of an international fact-finding committee to scrutinize the claims made last August in the report authorized by the Gulf Center for Democratic Development (GCDD).
Haq’s letter also called on the UN to ensure that Bahrain complies with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which it acceded in September, and for a review of Bahrain’s human rights record in line with its membership of the UN Human Rights Council.
Haq spokesman Abduljalil Alsingace said the letter was delivered by himself and two other Haq members, including former MP Ali Rabea, and that similar letters would be sent to the US Congress and EU and British parliaments.
In the report, Bandar claimed to have uncovered a secret organization operating within the government to “deprive an essential part of the population of this country of their rights”.
Sudanese-born Bandar, who had worked as a consultant in a government department, was expelled from Bahrain in September.
“We want an inquiry into everything contained in the report. … If the government has nothing to do with the (allegations) made in the report, let it say so,” Haq’s secretary-general Hassan Mushaimaa said.
Haq said authorities arrested two of its activists on Thursday, naming them as dentist Mohammed Said, one of the signatories of a recent petition to King Hamad demanding a probe into “Bandargate,” and Hussein Abdul Aziz Al-Habshi.
An Interior Ministry official, Maj. Mohammed bin Dainah, confirmed the arrest of the two men and said they would appear before the public prosecutor within 48 hours.
The pair were detained for possessing unlicensed leaflets “containing inflammatory material and false information liable to disrupt public order and undermine the national interest,” he said.