Bahrain detained and charged five people Wednesday for “obstructing the electoral process”, the public prosecution said, ahead of parliamentary polls set for the end of the week.
The Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed Shiite-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.
Opposition movements have been outlawed and hundreds of dissidents have been imprisoned — with many stripped of their nationality.
Muhanna al-Shayji, head of Bahrain’s electoral crimes unit, said one of the suspects was detained after calling on Twitter for a boycott of the November 24 elections, according to a statement released by the prosecution.
A second man was arrested for posting “fake news on the behaviour of one of the candidates” on social media, and the other three were detained for destroying advertisements of candidates, the statement said.
The country’s two main opposition groups — the Shiite Al-Wefaq and secular Waad — have been prohibited from submitting candidates for parliament.
On November 13, Bahrain detained and charged a man for a tweet saying he would boycott the elections, with a rights group identifying him as Ali Rashed al-Asheeri — a former member of parliament with Al-Wefaq.
Bahraini authorities accuses Shiite Iran of provoking unrest in the kingdom, an allegation Tehran denies.
Sheikh Ali Salman, who headed the Al-Wefaq group, was sentenced to life in prison on November 4 for spying for rival Gulf state Qatar, in a ruling rights groups have called a travesty.
Human rights groups have frequently said cases against activists in Bahrain — men and women, religious and secular — fail to meet the basic standards of fair trials.