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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Bahrain dissolves rights watchdog
Bahrainis protest against arrests of pro-democracy activists in May
Bahrainis have been warned not to "abuse" their freedoms
The Bahraini authorities have closed a non-governmental human rights watchdog whose director was arrested last week.

Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja is being detained for 45 days over charges of inciting hatred against the regime.

His Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) ignored warnings it had contravened association laws, a government statement said.

The centre had protested at the arrest, saying Mr Khawaja was just "practising his basic rights, namely free speech".

The BCHR is one of two human rights NGOs to have been authorised in Bahrain when King Hamad gradually introduced political reforms after becoming ruler in 1999.

Labour Minister Majid al-Alawi ordered the dissolution of the centre for "activities contravening the Associations Law of 1989", a government statement said.

The dissolution takes effect on Wednesday, the statement said.

Royal warning

Mr Khawaja - a member of Bahrain's Shia Muslim majority - was detained after making a speech on Friday blaming the prime minister - the king's uncle - for Bahrain's "economic woes and rising poverty" and calling for his resignation.

King Hamad warned critics on Monday against abusing Bahrain's "openness and freedoms".

"They spread rumours and attack symbols of the government. We distance ourselves from anyone who engages in such acts," newspapers quoted him as saying.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain, which is the home of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, is the poorest Arab Gulf state with high unemployment, especially in some Shia-populated areas.

The island witnessed widespread unrest in the mid-1990s as Shias protested for the reinstatement of Bahrain's elected parliament, which was dissolved in 1975.


SEE ALSO:
Bahrain releases six 'militants'
23 Jun 04  |  Middle East
Amnesty slams Gulf rights record
22 Jun 04  |  Americas
Country profile: Bahrain
20 Mar 04  |  Country profiles


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