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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad 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.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Trade Talks Could Heat Up in 2015

With boosting trade a top priority for the Obama administration, 2015 may be the year that an agreement is finally reached on the Trans Pacific Partnership. But the trade deal, which is intended to boost trade between 12 Pacific countries, faces opposition as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school

All About America

AppleAndroid