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Bahrain Prime minister says state security law will be abolished

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February 19, 2001 


MANAMA, Bahrain--(AP) - In the first step toward implementing a new national charter that received overwhelming public support in a referendum last week, Bahrain will abolish a security law that allowed detention without trial, the prime minister said Sunday.

The law was implemented during the Shiite unrest that gripped the country during the mid-1990s. Shiites, who form a slight majority on the island, have wielded little political power in Bahrain, where the ruling family is from Islam's mainstream Sunni sect.

The state security law and a state security court were set up to battle those involved in the violence when Shiite frustration boiled over into riots, bombings and arson in which more than 40 people died. Under the security measures, hundreds of people were detained without trial.

"We are taking the necessary steps to abolish the state security law and the state security court, taking into account the new found trust between the people and their emir," the prime minister, Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, told his Cabinet during its weekly meeting. The session was televised.

A committee headed by the crown prince, Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, will be set up to implement the new principles of the national action charter, including the expansion of personal freedom and equal rights, the prime minister said.

Bahrainis went to the polls last week to vote on the national charter, which promised to address the problems that caused the unrest. An overwhelming 98.4 percent voted for the charter.

The charter promises equality among all Bahrainis regardless of their sect.

There are concerns, though, that the referendum is vague about how much real participation in government is guaranteed. The emir will remain the final authority.

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