Posted on : 2009-01-27 | Author : DPA News Category : World

Manama, Bahrain - Bahraini authorities charged three opposition figures early Tuesday with attempting to overthrow the government, and their arrest sparked wide spread clashes between supporters and police across the Gulf island. The secretary general of the opposition Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy, Hasan Mushaima; human rights committee head and Haq spokesman, AbdulJalil al-Singace; and Sheikh Mohammad Habib al-Miqdad were all charged with conspiring to overthrow the Bahraini government.

They were arrested in early morning raids on Monday after they refused to adhere to a request by the Public Prosecution to appear in front of investigators on Sunday.

Mushaima was questioned for eight hours, while the other two men were questioned for three hours each, in the presence of their lawyers.

Anti-riot police blocked access to the Public Prosecution building as they were brought in after working hours, as clashes errupted between police and Haq supporters in Shiite villages across the island.

At least four people were arrested during the clashes thatlasted well into the early morning hours on Tuesday. The clashes also saw an attack on a police station in Muharraq north of Manama, which caused minor damages to the building and several cars.

The three had said they decided to not appear in front of the prosecution because the notifications they received failed to specify the reasons and charges they were facing.

A statement issued by the movement late Saturday questioned the independence of the judiciary system and described the investigation as the harassment of activists.

The statement also linked the summoning to allegations made by suspects arrested last month allegedly for being involved in a terrorist network of Bahrainis spanning from Britain to Syria with plans to carry out bombings to disrupt December national day celebrations. The alleged plot was disrupted by the government.

Lawyers for the three affirmed that the questioning centred on links to the alleged terror group and speeches the three gave criticizing the government and its policies.

Similar charges were brought against the former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and current Protection Coordinator for the Middle East at Front Line, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, for critical speeches he had made.

Al-Khawaja, although not directly linked to the alleged terror group, is a close supporter of Haq's stance on several political and social issues.