Bahrain government disbands country's largest religious group

(Photo: . REUTERS / Hamad I Mohammed. REUTERS / Hamad I Mohammed)Protesters holding Bahraini flags march during an anti-government protest organised by Bahrain's main opposition party Al Wefaq, in Budaiya, west of Manama, June 6, 2014

Bahrain's main opposition group, the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, has accused the government of denying its people freedom to belief and religion after it closed down the country's largest religious association.

The group said shutting down the Islamic Council of Scholars, which is engaged in religious education and awareness in society, sent the message that dialogue for a political solution to the three-year standoff have been closed, the Ahlul Bayt News Agency reported on July 20.

The group further claimed that locking out the largest religious establishment for Shiites in Bahrain is a "crime against the homeland and the unity of its people."

It also said the move promotes hatred and sectarian persecution of Shiite Muslims in the country.

The majority of the Bahraini population is Shiite while the kingdom is ruled by the Sunni monarchy of Hamad bi Isa Al-Khalifa.

The regime has faced many Shia protests since the start of the Arab Spring three years ago.

"The regime in Bahrain is running away from the democratic demands of the majority of its people and is exacerbating the crisis by perpetrating human rights violations in attempt to cover and shutdown these demands," the Islamic Council of Scholars was quoted as saying.

On Sunday, the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry filed a lawsuit against the council for allegedly holding two illegal assemblies.

The opposition group could be suspended for three months following lawsuit, reported the Gulf Daily News.

The ministry said the group held meetings without observing quorum rules, and organized two other similar meetings but failed to meet transparency requirements.

Any action or decision reached in those meetings should be considered invalid, the ministry said.

"The ministry addressed the society directly more than once on the violations and requested their rectification," it said in a statement.

"However, the society continued its violations with regard to holding its general assemblies."

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