Bahrain's main Shia opposition group, Wefaq, 'dissolved'

Image source, Reuters
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Wefaq is Bahrain's largest legally recognised opposition political society

A court in Bahrain has ordered the Sunni Muslim-ruled country's leading Shia opposition group dissolved and its assets seized, reports say.

The ruling follows last month's move by the government to suspend all activities of the Wefaq National Islamic Society.

Funds will be transferred to Bahrain's government, al-Arabiya TV said.

Wefaq has helped lead pro-democracy protests in the country since 2011.

That February, demonstrators took to the streets to demand greater political rights and an end to discrimination against the Shia majority.

The following month, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa brought in troops from neighbouring Sunni-led Gulf states to restore order and crush dissent. The unrest left at least 30 civilians and five policemen dead.

Opposition activists say dozens of people have been killed in ongoing clashes between protesters and security forces, while bomb attacks blamed on Iran-backed militants have killed a number of police officers.

'Safeguard security'

Last month the justice ministry said it had filed a request with a court to suspend Wefaq to "safeguard the security of the kingdom" .

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Wefaq's secretary-general Sheikh Ali Salman recently had a jail term increased
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Bahrain has been wracked by unrest since a pro-democracy uprising was crushed in 2011

The government also stripped the kingdom's most prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, of his citizenship, accusing him of using his position to "serve foreign interests" and promote "sectarianism and violence".

Wefaq is Bahrain's largest legally recognised opposition political society, it says it advocates non-violent activism.

Last month, an appeal court more than doubled the prison sentence of Wefaq's secretary-general from four years to nine, overturning a trial court's decision to acquit Sheikh Salman of advocating the overthrow of the government by force.

Human Rights Watch said there was strong evidence that his trial was unfair and that two of the charges on which he was convicted violated his right to freedom of expression.

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