July 12, 2015 / 6:49 PM / 2 years ago

Bahrain arrests opposition leader freed three weeks ago: agency

DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain has arrested a prominent Sunni Muslim opposition leader three weeks after he was freed from jail for plotting to overthrow the monarchy, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

Ibrahim Sharif, former head of the secular National Democratic Action Society, or Waad, was detained for incitement to overthrow the government and publicizing “hatred of the regime” in a speech on July 10, a ministry statement carried on the official Bahrain News Agency said.

Sharif was freed by royal pardon on June 19 after serving more than four years in prison for his role in an uprising demanding political reforms in the Gulf Arab island monarchy. He was Waad leader at the time of his arrest in March 2011.

A resolution passed by the European Parliament this month welcomed Sharif’s release, calling the move “a welcome and important step in the process of promoting trust and confidence in Bahrain”. It also called for a comprehensive dialogue between the government and the opposition in Bahrain.

Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has experienced sporadic turmoil since mass protests in 2011 led by majority Shi‘ites demanding reforms and a bigger role in government. That uprising was put down with military help from Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain says the opposition has a sectarian agenda and is backed by Shi‘ite power Iran, charges that Shi‘ite groups deny and Waad has said was contradicted by its own secular approach.

Members of Waad, a secular leftist party run by both Sunnis and Shi‘ites, have said their non-sectarian voice in 2011 made them a target for hardliners in support of the government, which they accused at the time of stoking sectarian tensions. The government denies ever seeking to strain communal relations.

Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by William Maclean and Louise Ireland

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