Bahrain king toughens anti-terrorism laws, rights groups cry foul

Thu Aug 1, 2013 5:58am EDT
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By Yara Bayoumy

DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain's King Hamad has toughened penalties in anti-terrorism laws before planned anti-government protests this month, approving proposals that have alarmed human rights groups which fear a crackdown on the demonstrations.

King Hamad, whose Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa dynasty has ruled the U.S.-allied Gulf state since 1783, has struggled to contain unrest that has persisted since the initial repression of pro-democracy protests by majority Shi'ite Muslims in early 2011.

Inspired by the mass demonstrations in Egypt that led to the army's overthrow of an Islamist president last month, a protest movement in Bahrain has called for rallies on August 14.

At an extraordinary session of parliament on Sunday, lawmakers agreed to recommendations including stripping those who commit or call for "terrorist crimes" of their nationality and preventing any protests in the capital Manama.

The king, whose island state is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, endorsed the proposals and on Wednesday issued two decrees enacting tougher laws, the Bahrain News Agency said.

The amendments prescribe a jail sentence of not less than 10 years on "anyone who carries out a bombing ... or attempts to carry out a bombing for terrorism purposes".

The penalty increases to death or life imprisonment if the bombing results in any death or injury, while anyone who puts or carries anything that resembles explosives or firecrackers in public places will receive prison terms.

"Perpetrators of dangerous terror crimes" can also have their citizenship revoked, the amendments say.   Continued...

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa performs the Ardah, a national folk dance, during a ceremony organised by residents of Southern Governorate to show their support and loyalty, in Riffa, south of Manama, Bahrain, April 10, 2013. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed