MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain’s main opposition movement, Al Wefaq, said on Tuesday that authorities had suspended its activities for three months, ahead of a November parliamentary election which the group had already pledged to boycott.
The suspension appeared to be the result of a court case brought by the government in July against the organization, claiming it had broken the law and its own statutes.
Wefaq said two weeks ago it would not take part in the November poll because the elected parliament would not have enough power and because voting districts favored the Gulf Arab kingdom’s ruling Sunni minority.
But it condemned the suspension as “irrational and irresponsible”. In a statement in English it said the government appeared to be “moving to destroy political and social life by blocking the people out.”
There was no immediate comment from Bahraini authorities.
The United States, which has close political and military ties with Bahrain, said it was concerned at the suspension.
“Such a move runs contrary to fostering an environment of political inclusion. We’re following the case closely and understand that the Society plans to appeal the decision,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a regular news briefing.
Wefaq, which has strong links to Bahrain’s Shi‘ite majority, won 18 out of 40 parliamentary seats in a 2010 election, but pulled out of parliament a year later during a crackdown against mostly Shi‘ite Muslim protesters demanding greater democracy.
Since those February 2011 demonstrations, Bahrain has been shaken by low-level unrest.
Stalled reconciliation talks between the al-Khalifa ruling family and the Shi‘ite opposition were revived early this year but later appeared to stall following prosecutions of Wefaq officials on a variety of charges.
Reporting by Farishta Saeed; Writing by Sylvia Westall and William Maclean; Editing by Dominic Evans and Leslie Adler