A prominent opposition politician in Bahrain has appeared in court to defend himself against charges of instigating violence in the Persian Gulf kingdom.
During a court hearing on Thursday, Khalil al-Marzooq, a senior member of Bahrain’s main opposition group al-Wefaq, dismissed the allegation that he had been behind terrorist activities against the ruling Al Khalifa regime. However, the Bahraini politician reaffirmed that he would continue to support peaceful anti-regime demonstrations that call for political reforms in the troubled Arab state. Marzooq, a former parliament member, was detained on September 17. He was later referred to court on charges of “inciting terrorist crimes.” His arrest prompted al-Wefaq to suspend its engagement in political talks with the Manama regime. On September 19, Amnesty International called on the Al Khalifa regime to release Marzooq, describing him as “a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned only for his vehement criticism of the government.” On October 22, al-Wefaq also accused the Bahraini authorities of “taking advantage of their power for vengeful purposes against those demanding democracy,” saying that Marzooq’s trial shows “the political persecution and exclusion the authorities are practicing.” The Bahraini uprising began in mid-February 2011. Protesters initially called for political reform and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests. Scores have been killed, many of them under torture while in custody, and thousands more detained since the popular uprising in the Persian Gulf kingdom.