US State Dept. Counterterrorism Report 2017: Bahraini Gov’t Practices Increase Risk of Radicalization to Violence
2018-09-24 - 10:01 p
Bahrain Mirror: In its annual report on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism in the world in 2017, the US State Department considered repression the main reason for the increase in terrorism in Bahrain.
The State Department linked in its report the practices of the Bahraini authorities with the increase in violence, in particular the closure of Al-Wasat, the only independent newspaper in the country, which restricted the space of opposition voices in the country.
In the context, the report mentioned the dissolution of two opposition political societies, Wa'ad and Al-Wefaq, along with government suppression of peaceful protests, stating that they exacerbated political tensions, which could increase the risk of radicalization to violence.
The report highlighted the legislative measures taken by Bahrain, noting that in April, Bahrain approved a constitutional amendment granting military courts the right to try civilians accused of threatening state security, further mentioning that in December 25, military courts sentenced six Bahrainis to death and seven to seven years in prison in the first trial since the amendment was ratified.
The US report also pointed out that in January, Bahrain restored the Bahrain National Security Agency's (BNSA) arrest authority for suspected terrorists, noting that BNSA had lost its arrest authority after torture allegations amid unrest in 2011. "In April 2017, the Bahrain Defense Force established a Counterterrorism Center combining five special operations entities in a new crisis-response mechanism."
Regarding the countering the financing of terrorism, the report stated that the potential politicization of terrorism finance and money laundering issues risks conflating legitimate prosecutions of militants with politically motivated actions against the mainstream opposition. "In May, the government convicted Shia cleric Isa Qassim on money-laundering charges related to his collection of khums, alms giving unique to the Shia sect, without proper authorization. Activists and opposition-aligned clergy claimed that increased scrutiny of khums is part of a wider crackdown on the political opposition, whereas the Bahraini government has argued that some khums collections directly and indirectly support Bahraini militants."
"There is no overall strategic messaging campaign to counter terrorist narratives, although government leaders often publicly speak about tolerance and reducing sectarian rhetoric," the report further stressed.
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