DUBAI (AFP) – Bahrain’s opposition chief Sheikh Ali Salman was remanded in custody Tuesday for one week pending an investigation into charges including promoting regime change through violence, prosecutors said.
Salman, head of the Shiite group Al-Wefaq, was charged on Monday by authorities in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom, where the opposition boycotted a November parliamentary election that it dismissed as a farce.
Al-Wefaq swiftly denounced his detention, saying it “entrenches the tyrannical rule in Bahrain and closes all doors for a political solution.”
Salman’s arrest on Sunday triggered clashes between police and protesters in Shiite villages outside the capital Manama, during which security forces fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators.
The prosecution said Monday that Salman had been charged with “promoting regime change by force, threats and illegal means and of insulting the interior ministry publicly.”
Prosecutor Nayef Mahmud said in a statement that Salman was also accused of inciting people to break the law and of “hatred towards a segment of the people”, an allusion to Sunni Muslims who are a minority in the Shiite-majority kingdom.
The prosecutor said police also suspect Salman of calling for foreign interference by “urging super powers to intervene in Bahrain to support him in his bid to change the regime”.
Bahrain has been gripped by sporadic violence since the authorities crushed month-long protests led by Al-Wefaq in 2011.
At least 89 people have been killed since then in clashes with security forces, and hundreds have been arrested and put on trial, human rights groups say.
Strategically located just across the Gulf from Iran, Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Britain announced plans earlier this month to build a naval base of its own there.