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Bahrain backs off plan to ban opposition after US criticism

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Al Wefaq member Sayed Hadi AlMosawi, contacted in Manama by phone, says he believes the reversal was a direct result of US criticism.

“I think that [Bahraini officials] got the message clearly and that’s why they withdrew it,” he says. “Still we feel there is an intention to do something, but we don’t know what. The situation is not clear for us.”

State department spokesman endorsed a reversal

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday that the US was “concerned” about the decision and “we would welcome them reversing this particular action.”

“These were legitimate political societies that were recognized by the government of Bahrain, especially the mainstream Shia opposition group, Al Wefaq,” he said in a briefing in Washington. “We call on the government of Bahrain to support freedom of association and expression and to foster an environment that encourages political pluralism and participation.” Political parties are outlawed in Bahrain, and they are known instead as political societies.

The US has been largely silent as Bahrain has undertaken a campaign to crush the largely Shiite protest movement that began in February calling for democratic reforms by the kingdom’s Sunni rulers.

Human rights advocates in Bahrain say that at least 31 people have died during the government crackdown. More than 400 have also been arrested, including many activists and those who spoke out against the campaign, and four of those detained have so far died in police custody. Hundreds of the Shiites have been fired from their jobs, and others are targeted at checkpoints for beatings or arrest.

US envoy headed back to Bahrain next week

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