Bahraini king says previous pardons were misused amid crackdown
Bahrain's king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, said in a televised speech on Sunday that previously pardoned opposition figures thought they were above the law, amid a massive security crackdown in the Gulf state, dpa reported.
"(We) had pardoned them in the hope that they would return to their senses, ... but they misinterpreted the pardons of their transgressions as a sign of them being above the law and continued their training on all sorts of vandalism," the king said in the speech aired on state-run television BTV.
He said that Bahrain would tighten its monitoring of mosques and religious establishments to prevent their misuse.
Bahraini authorities have been cracking down since August 13 on what they say is an Islamic Shiite terrorist network, claiming that its members conspired to overthrow the government and foment unrest.
BTV on Saturday had identified 20 opposition figures - all Shiites - as ringleaders of the alleged plot. Human rights groups say more than 200 people have been arrested.
In an apparent bid to calm Shiite concerns that they would be indiscriminately targeted, the king said he did not think ill of anyone who had not been misled or deceived by the network.
"I hope and expect that everyone would stand united in the face of those who wanted to harm our country's security and stability, our unity," he said.
Those detained face charges of attempting to overthrow the government, collecting money to finance their illegal network and inciting hatred and contempt of the government. Money was said to have been collected at mosques, among other places.
"I have directed the government authorities overseeing religious affairs to pay more attention to our mosques and religious forums to ensure that only those who are scientifically qualified, who are good citizens with good manners, and saturated with moderation and renouncing violence be allowed to speak in them," the king said.
Bahraini opposition groups and human rights groups have criticized the arrests and alleged that those detained had been tortured.
"All those who have been accused are known public figures, and all their movements are known and easy to monitor, which contradicts the idea of a secret organization," the al-Wefaq Islamic Society, the largest of the Shiite opposition groups, said Sunday.