The detentions bring to eight the number of activists and clerics arrested over the past week. The detainees include Mohammed Saeed, a board member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights whose operations were formally suspended in 2004 but which continues to operate, Bahrain’s state news agency said.
“The organisation’s network aimed at compromising national security and harming the stability of the country,” the news agency said late on Tuesday, citing a security source.
It said the group had funded violent protests in different parts of Bahrain. Bahraini government officials either declined to comment or could not be reached.
Bahrain, a Gulf Arab island kingdom, is governed by a Sunni ruling family and has a majority Shi’ite population that complains of discrimination in jobs and services, an accusation the government denies.
The sectarian balance of Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, also concerns top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which has a Shi’ite minority population in its Eastern Province adjacent to Bahrain.
Diplomats say the arrests appeared to be an effort to push the Shi’ite opposition to temper protests ahead of parliamentary elections due on Oct. 23.
Bahrain has the only elected parliament in the Gulf Arab region besides Kuwait, even though its powers are limited as bills need to be approved by an upper house whose members are appointed by the king.
Bahrain earlier detained four other Shi’ite activists, including Abduljalil Singace from the mainly Shi’ite Haq movement, saying they had formed a network to undermine the stability of the country.
The Haq movement disputes the legitimacy of the reform process launched by Bahrain’s king about a decade ago, after which the Shi’ite unrest of the 1990s abated. Haq is expected to boycott the October poll.
New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Bahrain to either free Singace and those arrested with him or bring formal charges against them.
“A country that respects human rights, as Bahrain claims to do, does not arrest people just because they harshly criticise the government,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said in the statement.
Singace was arrested on Friday when he returned from London where he had spoken about human rights in Bahrain to the House of Lords, and his arrest sparked clashes in Shi’ite villages that continued until Tuesday.
Mohammed al-Tajer, a lawyer for six of the eight activists and clerics arrested, said he had still not been able to contact the defendants.
“We don’t know why this is happening now, during (the Muslim fasting month of) Ramadan,” he said.
When we choose to look away for good, we are as complicit as those at the helm of this atrocity
Over 100 people in Lebanon have been reported killed during the hostilities started on October 7