News / Middle East

Bahrain Opposition Leaders Face Second Round of Questions

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski, second from left, visits with Sheikh Ali Salman, head of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, left, former member of the Bahraini parliament, Abdul Jalil Khalil, second from right, and Timothy J. Pounds, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Bahrain, right, in Manama, July 6, 2014.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski, second from left, visits with Sheikh Ali Salman, head of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, left, former member of the Bahraini parliament, Abdul Jalil Khalil, second from right, and Timothy J. Pounds, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Bahrain, right, in Manama, July 6, 2014.
Phillip Walter Wellman

Two leading figures of Bahrain's opposition al-Wefaq party faced a second day of questioning on Thursday, less than a week after holding an illegal meeting with a senior U.S. diplomat in Manama.

Al-Wefaq Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman and his assistant, Khalil al-Marzooq, say they were asked by authorities on Wednesday and Thursday to provide details of their discussions with Tom Malinowski, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The U.S. diplomat's talks with the two members of Bahrain’s main Shi’ite opposition party led to his expulsion from the Gulf kingdom on Tuesday. Washington said it was “deeply concerned” by the move and was considering a response.  

Salman and al-Marzooq say the United States requested the meeting focused on national reconciliation efforts.

The Bahraini government says the visit was not part of Malinowski’s approved agenda and that it violated a law passed last year that requires a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be present at all meetings between foreign delegations and political societies.

They were released on the basis that they cannot travel outside the country, indicating the authorities would like to pursue their case.

Salman al-Jalahma, media attaché at Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority, says the law is partly aimed at preventing the spread of false information.

"Essentially, this is just to have a more clear and transparent communication between local entities and foreign entities that we have close ties with to ensure that we have very transparent, constructive engagement by everyone," he said. "The U.S. embassy is well versed in the stipulation from previous engagements, so it’s confusing as to why the laws of the country were willingly challenged. ... Why provoke an already very sensitive environment?"

Bahrain has witnessed continued unrest since 2011, when its majority Shi’ite population took to the streets to demand political reform and more rights from the Sunni monarchy.

The government managed to control the demonstrations with military support from its Gulf neighbors, but confidence-building measures have since achieved minimal results.

Malinowski was scheduled to meet with various political and civil society leaders while in Bahrain. However, al-Jalahma says he appeared to put most of his focus on al-Wefaq, which could have caused further division among other parties.

"This was our biggest issue — that we have worked so hard to close these rifts that have widened over the past few years and we can’t afford to have anything else hinder that progress," he said.

Malinowski, however, insists his expulsion was “about undermining dialogue” in the country.

A fourth attempt to stage successful peace talks in Bahrain has been in the works since the beginning of the year.

Speaking to VOA by telephone on Thursday after his interrogation, al-Marzooq said he agrees with Malinowski and does not believe the government is taking the talks seriously.

"They don’t want to compromise and the dialogue is for them a big compromise, to lose the control of the authority," he said.

Bahrain’s foreign ministry says the Malinowski incident "should not in any way affect the two countries’ relationship of mutual interests.”

The nation is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, responsible for all American sea power in the region.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs