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Tue 29 Nov 2011 06:54 PM

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Bahrain opposition party calls for gov't to resign

Leader of Wefaq says action needed after unrest report uncovers torture of citizens

Bahrain opposition party calls for gov't to resign
Bahraini Shiites hold an anti-government rally in west Manama

The leader of Bahrain's main opposition party called on Tuesday for the government to resign after an independent inquiry found evidence of systematic rights abuses during a crackdown on pro-democracy protests this year.

Bahrain has said it will comply with the findings of the inquiry, headed by international rights lawyer Cherif Bassiouni, and is under pressure from its ally the United States to show improvements in its rights record to secure an arms sale.

The inquiry was set up after Sunni-led Bahrain faced international criticism for imposing martial law and calling in Saudi and United Arab Emirates forces during a crackdown on protests led by majority Shi'ite Muslims.

"What is required in Bahrain (based on the) report of Mr Bassiouni is that the government offers its resignation for having been responsible for the torture of citizens," Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the opposition group Wefaq, told Al Jazeera television.

Bahrain's King Hamad named a new head for the state security body on Tuesday as part of a shake-up after the inquiry's report, replacing Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdullah, a member of the ruling al-Khalifa family. Sheikh Khalifa was named to lead a top defence council and as security adviser to the king.

The opposition said replacing him was not enough.

"(Sheikh Khalifa's) new position is more important than the one he held earlier, while the report calls for accountability of officials ... I do not find there was any punishment," Salman said.

King Hamad also set up a national commission to examine the inquiry's recommendations.

Two members of Wefaq were asked to take part in the 18-member commission but declined because opposition parties were not approached directly or given the chance to choose who represents them. A government statement said it was "disappointed" at this.

The inquiry report said the commission implementing its recommendations should be independent and impartial and include figures from the government, opposition parties and civil society.

"But all these measures are taken unilaterally, which is part of the essence of the problem in Bahrain, ... while we as Wefaq extend our hand to ... move Bahrain away from the police state the report condemns," Salman said.

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