Dubai: A Bahraini appeals court on Thursday upheld an order dissolving the country’s main Shiite opposition group.
A lower court had ordered the dissolution of the Al Wefaq association in July over accusations including harbouring terrorism and ordered its funds to be seized by the government.
The accusations also included inciting violence and encouraging demonstrations which threatened to spark sectarian strife in the country.
Al Wefaq was the largest group in parliament before its lawmakers resigned en masse in protest at the crushing of Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations in 2011 calling for an elected government.
Al Wefaq’s defence team had withdrawn from court proceedings in June in protest at the government’s push to accelerate the proceedings, which had initially been set for October 6.
And a judicial source said the court still refused to grant lawyers access to the group’s offices to prepare their defence. The court had ordered the closure of Al Wefaq’s offices earlier in June.
In October 2014, the administrative court banned Al Wefaq for three months for violating the law on associations.
Political parties are banned in Bahrain, as in other Gulf Arab states, so Al Wefaq operated as an association.
Also known as the Islamic National Accord Association, Al Wefaq is heir to the Bahrain Freedom Movement which played a key role in protests in the 1990s that sought the restoration of the elected parliament scrapped in 1975.
Al Wefaq’s leader, Shiite cleric Ali Salman, is serving a nine-year jail term on charges of inciting violence after a court in May more than doubled his sentence.
Authorities have also stripped at least 261 people of their citizenship since 2012, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, including the country’s Shiite spiritual leader Sheikh Isa Qassem.
Meanwhile, prosecutors said on Wednesday taht Bahrain is to put on trial 11 people accused of attempting to murder a police officer and being part of a terrorist group.
The 11 suspects were arrested after gunmen fired at a police officer in May in Sitra near the capital Manama, the prosecution was quoted by state news agency BNA as saying.
Another six people who face the same charges are still at large.
The 11 confessed to belonging to a terrorist group, receiving military training, attempting to kill an officer and being in possession of weapons and explosives, said the same source.
Their trial will open on October 25.
Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since security forces crushed opposition-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister in 2011.