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Bahrain initiates criminal investigation into online content of opposition party

[JURIST] Bahrain's Ministry of Interior [official website] initiated a criminal investigation on Tuesday into alleged criminal content posted by the country's main opposition group, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society [official website; GU Berkley Center backgrounder]. Al-Wefaq regularly publishes content [AFP report] to its website and Twitter account, including pictures of protests against the Sunni majority party. Saturday marked the four-year anniversary of a Shiite uprising in Bahrain and hundreds took the streets to protest [Al-Jazeera report] a lack of political reform and the imprisonment of Al-Wafeq leader Sheikh Ali Salman. The alleged criminal content involves pictures of wounded protesters from the Saturday protests, and claims that the authorities fired buckshot and tear gas to disperse protesters. Al-Wefaq is accused [AP report] of publicly inciting hatred against the government, encouraging illegal rallies and distributing false news.

Political tensions remain high in Bahrain [JURIST news archive] following protests that began in 2011. Earlier this month, a group of UN human rights experts urged [JURIST report] the Bahrain government to release Salman. The human rights experts criticized the arrest and prosecution as a violation of Salman's right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion. In January the Bahrain Ministry of Justice commenced [JURIST report] the trial of Salman for his role in promoting an overthrow of the current Bahrain political system. Salman was charged [JURIST report] in January for inciting a change of regime by non-peaceful means. Last October a Bahrain court ordered [JURIST report] Al-Wefaq to suspend all activities.

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