Bahrain said late on Thursday that Interpol has circulated warrants for the arrest of two Shiite opposition leaders who have been living in London, days before they are due to go on trial in absentia on terror charges.
Bahrain Freedom Islamic Movement secretary general Said al-Shihabi and Haq leader Hussein Mashaimaa were among 23 activists from the Gulf state's Shiite majority community charged on September 4 with terrorism offences and threatening to overthrow the Sunni regime.
"Interpol has circulated warrants for the arrest of Said al-Shihabi and Hussein Mashaimaa, wanted in the case of the recently dismantled terrorist network," said a statement from police prosecutors carried by the official BNA news agency.
"The interior ministry secured Interpol's agreement to issue Red Notices for the two fugitives," the statement added.
London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International said earlier this month that the arrests of the 21 activists in custody came amid a wider crackdown on Shiite opposition activists in the run-up to a tense parliamentary election this Saturday, which had seen a total of 250 detained.
It warned that they all faced the risk of torture.
The trial of the 23 men is due to open next Thursday, overshadowing the weekend election in which the mainstream Shiite opposition in parliament, the Islamic National Accord Association, is contesting 18 out of 40 seats.
Haq, a breakaway from the INAA, is boycotting the vote.
INAA leader Sheikh Ali Salman has said the charges against the 23 accused lack credibility and has called for further reform of the kingdom's political system.
Bahrain has turned to its Gulf neighbors to put pressure on Britain to hand over or at least expel Shihabi and Mashaimaa.
On September 6, the six Gulf Arab states issued a statement urging Britain to "deal seriously with ... individuals supporting terrorism ... and not to grant them political asylum, or allow them to exploit the climate of freedom to damage the security and stability of member countries."