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Bahrain to lift ban on liberal society

Waad was banned in April and its office on Muharraq island was shut down

Gulf News

Manama: Bahrain has launched procedures to lift a ban on the National Democratic Action Society "Waad", the largest liberal society in the country, after it distanced itself from calls to topple the regime and said that it would take part in the national dialogue.

"We welcome the statement by the society in which it expressed patriotic stances highlighting the significance of ensuring calm and stability, reinforcing national unity and participating by all parties in a national dialogue in July," the justice ministry said on Saturday.

"We stress that the rule of law, the respect of the constitution and the protection of the national unity are the most important objectives and the essential guarantee for stability, security and prosperity of the nation."

Waad was banned in April and its office on Muharraq island was shut down. Ebrahim Shareef, the society leader, has been arrested and is among 21 suspects facing criminal charges that include links with a group plotting to undermine security and stability and planning to overthrow the regime.

In its statement on Friday, Waad said that it had always highlighted the importance of national unity and had always been keen on being open to all political and social segments of Bahrain.

"We tried during the recent incidents to ensure that the political statements were balanced, to put an end to escalations and to avoid wading into crises that would be harmful to all parties," the society said.

Waad said that it strongly objected to the political slogans calling for the downfall of the regime and to the alliance calling for the establishment of a republic.

"We did not hesitate to express our objection and our rejection of street action such as blocking roads, rallying in front of public facilities such as the Bahrain Financial Harbour and the Salmaniya Medical Complex. We did not call for rallies either in front of the Riffa and Al Safriya [palaces]. We did our best to ensure that education would not be stalled and to calm the situation in order to recover our normal daily lives. However, Waad and other societies could not stop the escalation of the situation," the society said.

According to the society, the constitutional monarchy in Bahrain is the "essential pillar of Bahrain's present and future."

"The slogans for the downfall of the regime are not endorsed or supported by the society which has always supported peaceful political action," the statement said. "We look forward to a national dialogue that includes the spectrum of the Bahraini society. We call upon all parties to take part in the dialogue, consecrate stability, shun violence and tension and reinforce national unity."

In the statement, Waad said that it rejected "foreign interference in Bahrain's domestic affairs".

"Based on this premise, we reject the repeated attempts by Iran to interfere in Bahrain's internal affairs under any guise. We also stress the Arab identity of Bahrain and emphasise that it cannot be discussed or compromised. We have always held this view and we have invariably refuted and rejected Iran's interference," the society said.

Waad said that it was aware of the "reasons" that led to the ban on its activities following its statement on April 3.

"We declare that the statement should have never been issued the way it came out. As we withdraw it from our literature and publications, we would like to express our regrets over the expressions that unintentionally targeted the army and other institutions of the state that we respect and appreciate," Waad said.

The society urged King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa to reconsider the case of Ebrahim Shareef and requested the competent authorities to lift the ban on its activities.

"This will allow the society to exercise its role in the national dialogue and to review its programme and its political activities," the statement said.

Formed in April 2001, Waad sought to bring together all the leftist groups in Bahrain. It boycotted the 2002 parliamentary elections, but in 2006 and in 2010, it reversed its position and fielded several candidates.

None of them carried a seat, but Ebrahim Shareef and Muneera Fakhro made it on both elections to the second round where they narrowly lost.