Bahrain election protest: Opposition group 'occupies' capital's downtown

Bahrain election protest: Opposition group 'occupies' capital's downtown
​Pouring oil on roads, opposition activists in Bahrain have attempted to occupy central areas of the capital Manama, media reported. In response police closed access to some central streets of the city while an upcoming rally was also banned.

The opposition is protesting plans by the Bahraini authorities to change voting rules in the run up to elections on the 22 November, which they say will rob some of the electorate of their vote, RIA Novosti reported from Manama.

RIA's correspondent said the Monday night action, which also involved burning tires, was led by February 14 opposition group.

However, Bahrain's Ministry of Information denied to RT that traffic in the capital was interrupted at any time on Monday or Tuesday.

"We confirm that traffic in Manama has not seen any kind of disturbance and has in fact run smoothly all day," the ministry's representative said in an email.

The opposition say plans to get rid of one constituency and spread the votes out to others will jeopardize their chances in the upcoming poll.

Later in the day, one of major opposition parties, Al Wefaq, also said their rally set for Friday in capital downtown got a no-go from the authorities.

“Such bans only serve to deteriorate the crisis in Bahrain which sprang up due to the authoritarian rule and lack of opportunity to make your voice heard if it’s different from the government’s point of view,” the Shiite party said in a press release.

However, the authorities believe that the opposition uses such action to destabilize the situation in the country.

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The recent rally took place against the backdrop of a series of harsh sentences against nine Bahraini protesters, which were announced on Monday.

A court sentenced them to life in prison and stripped them of their nationality for allegedly smuggling arms into the country to be used for ‘terrorist acts’. The court also ruled that all nine had contacted an agent of an unnamed foreign country in order “to carry out acts hostile to Bahrain.”

The case in question dates back to February 2013, in which the Bahraini authorities claim to have dismantled a terrorist cell with links to Iran.

The majority of Bahraini citizens are Shiites, the same as Iran, but they are ruled by a Sunni Muslim monarchy, which the opposition accuses of being unrepresentative and undemocratic.

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The latest sentencing comes after a series of convictions against protesters and rights activists by the Saudi-backed Manama regime.

Bahrain has the largest prison population of any Arab state in the West Asian and North African region, and one of the highest in the world.

Over 2,000 people are currently in detention; many of them for challenging the Khalifa monarchy, although the authorities are not transparent about the number of people incarcerated or that people are behind bars for their political views.

Bahraini activists say that up to 3,000 political prisoners have been arrested since the 2011 Bahraini uprising.

The number of prisoners is all the bigger when the small size of the Bahraini population is taken into account. 1.2 million people live in Bahrain, only 570,000 of whom are Bahraini.