Bahrain urged to reconsider suspension of rights group board

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Amnesty International has urged Bahrain to reconsider a decision to suspend the board of a prominent human rights organisation that criticised authorities in the Gulf state.

The Ministry of Social Development said in a statement on Wednesday it appointed one of its own officials as the acting head of the Bahrain Human Rights Society due to "irregularities" and a lack of impartiality.

Amnesty said the action was part of an intensifying "clampdown by the authorities on Shiite opposition and human rights activists in the run-up" to October 23 parliamentary elections.

"By suspending the board of the BHRS and putting its own representative in charge, the government has effectively taken control of the organisation with the apparent intent of closing it down," said Malcolm Smart, the London-based watchdog's Middle East and North Africa director.

"This undermines the basic rights to freedom of expression and association, and the government should rescind its decision immediately," he said in a statement released on Thursday.

Amnesty said activist and blogger Ali Abdulemam was arrested on Sunday by Bahraini forces for allegedly spreading "false news" on the portal

That came after Bahrain charged 23 Shiite activists earlier this month with forming a "terror network" aimed at bringing down the Sunni-dominated government.

Amnesty said BHRS was targeted by authorities after the rights group voiced concerns last month about activists who were detained.

"The BHRS is an independent, legally registered NGO and as such, it should be allowed to continue its human rights work unhindered and without interference from the Bahraini government," said Smart.

© 2010 AFP

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