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Civil Rights

Bahrain revokes citizenship of opposition activists

Authorities in Bahrain have stripped 31 Shiite Muslim opposition activists of their citizenship for having undermined state security. The move has been criticized by rights groups in the small island state.

The state news agency BNA reported on Wednesday that officials revoked the 31 Shiite activists' citizenship because they had harmed national security.

The Interior Ministry announced that it would take the "necessary measures to implement the decision in accordance with the country's law and international commitments."

A list of the individuals was published on the BNA website shortly after being posted via a private Twitter account.

All those named are Shiite Muslims - including three former opposition lawmakers and two leading clergymen. The country, which has a majority Shiite population, is ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family.

The decision means that the 31 may no longer be able to vote or travel abroad.

Hundreds arrested by security forces

Bahrain's ruling Al Khalifa family had help from its Gulf neighbor Saudi Arabia in quelling a Shiite-led uprising over alleged discrimination that began in February last year. Hundreds were arrested at the time.

Since then, the unrest has been intermittent. However, police and protesters have recently begun clashing on a daily basis.

Two rights groups - the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights - released a joint statement expressing "grave concern" over individual losses of citizenship, saying there had be a lack of due legal process.

"It is apparent that the action taken ... is intended to punish them for expressing peaceful dissent and thereby intimidate others from exercising their right to freedom of expression," the statement read.

The groups also urged Bahrain's allies such as Britain and the US, as well as the UN, to apply pressure on the government. "This comes at a time when the crackdown in Bahrain by the authorities is intensifying, and in light of continued international inaction, will continue to deteriorate," the statement read.

A similar move last December saw the United Arab Emirates revoke the citizenship of seven Islamist activists for reasons of national security.

rc/mkg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)