Key opposition group defiant at Bahrain reconciliation conference

Key opposition group defiant at Bahrain reconciliation conference

A key Bahraini opposition group said it will insist on demands "expressing popular will" as a national reconciliation conference opened Saturday in the capital Manama aimed at quelling the widening unrest, reported DPA.

"Al Wefaq adheres to all of its legitimate demands, which express the popular will, and will put them on the table of the national dialogue," said Khalil Marzouq, a member of the Muslim Shiite group.

About 300 politicians and activists from across the political spectrum in the island kingdom attended the opening session of the conference that was proposed by King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa.

At least 30 people are believed to have been killed in government crackdowns in the weeks following the protests that started in February in Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority Bahrain.

"Al Wefaq are participating in the dialogue with its motto being,'our demands are national'," Marzouq told the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat. The demands included the creation of an elected government and free parliamentary elections, he added.

The conference is expected to address the political, economic and social problems of the Shiite majority. "There is no limit at the dialogue conference," said Khalifa al-Zaharani, parliament speaker and chairman of the conference.

"Sincere intentions and coordination are enough to achieve harmony," he said ahead of the gathering.

Last month, the Bahraini monarch ordered the creation of a commission, comprising international figures, to investigate allegations of brutality, acts of violence, demolition of places of worship and media incitement against those who took part in the pro-democracy protests.

Those who testify before it are to be given full immunity, the king said.

"The Bahraini authorities should fully implement the recommendations of the commission once they come out," said al Wefaq's Marzouq.

The commission, chaired by United Nations war crimes expert Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, is to present its findings by October 30.

On June 1, Bahrain lifted its martial law imposed in mid-March, but the arrests of suspected pro-reform protesters and their supporters continued, along with military trials.

According to officials, more than 1,000 people, mostly Shiites, were detained. More than 2,000 people, including doctors, teachers and unionists, were sacked from their jobs for allegedly taking part in the protests.

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