Bahrain, a U.S. ally that hosts the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has warned citizens and residents that following anti-government social media accounts could result in legal action, hardening a government campaign against critical online voices. The interior ministry sent text messages to Bahraini phones late last week warning that “following accounts which are biased or incite discord could expose you to legal liability”. The government had said in mid-May that “promoting” views on such accounts would result in legal measures being taken, but singling out the specific act of following critical accounts for legal action is a new development. Since a 2011 Shi’ite Muslim-led uprising in which dozens died and saw troops sent in from neighbouring ally Saudi Arabia, Sunni-ruled Bahrain has pursued a wide-ranging security crackdown. Hundreds have been imprisoned and stripped of their nationality, sometimes in mass trials, and the main opposition parties have been banned. Most opposition figures are now either imprisoned or have fled abroad. U.N. and rights groups have accused authorities of torture in detention. The latest crackdown on dissent has targeted Bahrainis, mostly abroad, running social media accounts. The push began in mid-May when the interior ministry said it was taking legal steps against people running accounts from “Iran, Qatar, Iraq and some European countries such as France, Germany and Australia”. It urged people to avoid dealing or interacting with such accounts and said legal measures would be taken against people “promoting their messages”. Then on Thursday, the ministry tweeted that following and circulating “inflammatory”
Palestinians will stay away from a U.S.-led conference in Bahrain next month that the Trump administration has cast as an overture to its own plan for peace between them and Israel, a Palestinian cabinet minister said on Monday. Washington announced the conference on Sunday, describing it as an opportunity to drum up international investment for the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians, who have boycotted the Trump administration since it recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, have shown little interest in discussing a plan on which they had no input and that they anticipate will fall far short of their core demands. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday that his government had not been consulted on the June 25-26 gathering in Manama. After the cabinet met, Ahhmed Majdalani, the social development minister and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee, said: “There will be no Palestinian participation in the Manama workshop.” “Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel,” he said. Shtayyeh reiterated Palestinians’ aspirations for a two-state peace agreement with Israel entailing control of the occupied West Bank and Gaza – currently run by the Islamist group Hamas – as well as East Jerusalem as their future capital. Internationally-mediated talks to that end have been stalemated for years. Israel calls Jerusalem its indivisible capital and has said it might declare sovereignty in its West Bank settlements, which are deemed illegal by
Bahrain’s police have arrested 15 anti-regime activists for allegedly trying to “cause chaos” during mourning ceremonies held by Shia Muslims that culminated last Thursday. The 15 people were arrested for what Bahrain’s police said “indulging in abusive activities to cause chaos” over the 10 days of Ashura.