Bahrain to "interrogate" opposition members after ordering U.S. envoy to leave the country
Bahrain's interior ministry summoned Opposition Leader Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of al Wefaq and his political assistant Khalil al-Marzooq on Tuesday, and ordered the visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Tomasz Malinowski to leave the country on Monday following meetings they had together.
Bahraini authorities summoned the members from Bahrain's main Shiite Muslim opposition group for "interrogation" on Tueday, according to Reuters. Authorities ordered Malinowski to leave Bahrain the day before because he had “intervened flagrantly” in the country’s internal affairs and held "meetings with a particular party to the detriment of other interlocutors, thus discriminating between one people, contravening diplomatic norms and flouting normal interstate relations".
U.S State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki responded with 'deep concern' on Monday stating that Malinowski's visit had been coordinated with Bahrain authorities in advance and visiting U.S officials generally hold meetings with various political affiliations. According to Reuters, Psaki added that Bahrain made requirements during Malinowski’s visit that violated diplomatic protocol, as “the government insisted — without advance warning and after his visit had already commenced — to have a Foreign Ministry representative present at all of Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s private meetings with individuals and groups representing a broad spectrum of Bahraini society, including those held at the U.S. embassy".
Although Bahrain and the U.S are allies, with the the former providing the latter a Naval base in the volatile Gulf region, the U.S has criticized Bahrain for human rights violations. Bahrain put down a popular uprising in 2011 that continues to generate minor unrest as the country's majority Shi'ite-led population demand democratic reform and political and economic equality from the Sunni Muslim family that rules Bahrain.
Bahrain's actions suggest increasing sensitivity in the bilateral relations following last year's demands by Bahraini lawmakers for authorities to prevent the U.S ambassador to Bahrain from meeting government opponents and influencing domestic affairs.
It is not the first time that US actions in Bahrain have created political controversy. Last year, Bahraini lawmakers urged the government to stop the US ambassador in Bahrain from interfering in domestic affairs and meeting government opponents.