GULF DIGITAL NEWS
7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

SYRIA ACCUSED

LONDON: Syria is training Bahraini opposition figures, His Majesty King Hamad said yesterday.

He also denied systematic rights abuses during the handling of protests earlier this year.

His interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper comes a day after he met British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"We have evidence that a number of Bahrainis who oppose our government are being trained in Syria .... I have seen the files and we have notified the Syrian authorities, but they deny any involvement," His Majesty said.

Talking about Bahrain's unrest, he stressed: "It is not the policy of the Interior Ministry to go and kill people on the roads. The policemen and soldiers involved did not take notice of the discipline side of matters," the King said, adding that wrongdoers would be held accountable.

He also insisted that forces do not indulge in "ethnic cleansing or genocide" and defended Bahrain's record in handling anti-government protests.

He blamed Syria and Iran for "stirring up our people" and claimed the regime had evidence that Syria was training young Bahrainis to overthrow the ruling family.

Responding to the conclusions of an independent commission published last month, which found that the Bahraini police had used excessive force in suppressing anti-government protests, His Majesty vowed to implement wide-ranging reforms with the aim of establishing a "kingdom of tolerance".

The King readily accepted that some protests had been mishandled, but said this was due to individuals in the security forces rather than Bahrain's government.

"What happened was the result of individual acts, not government policy," he said.

"If people have done something wrong then they should be held accountable. We have removed people from positions of authority so that this does not happen again."

The King has already implemented a number of wide-ranging reforms following publication of last month's report by Professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, a former UN human rights lawyer.

Twenty Bahraini police officers have been prosecuted, including those said to be responsible for the killings of five demonstrators, while the head of the National Security Agency has been replaced.

The group of medics who were jailed for participating in the protests have had their trials annulled and been released on bail, even though the commission found evidence that some of them had fabricated anti-Bahrain stories for the international media.

The King has also hired John Yates, the former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and the former police chief from Miami to oversee a radical overhaul of the country's security apparatus.

His Majesty said he remained committed to implementing the reforms recommended by the commission, which he personally authorised in the aftermath of the violent clashes.

"I care about Bahrain," he said. "Bahrain is very dear to me. I will not allow people to play around with our laws."

The King said he was prompted to establish the inquiry into the disturbances because of what he believed were misleading reports on the disturbances. "What began as a protest over better living standards quickly became a call for regime change," he said.

"This was an attempt to move attention away from the problems in Syria and Iran and make people look instead at Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.""






click on image to view the digital edition