The report issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in charge of looking into the unrest that took place in the island nation in February and March stirred much controversy. This was especially the case with the part that accused state TV of preventing Shiite opposition from issuing public statements, a charge denied by Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohamed al-Khalifa, president of the Bahraini Information Affairs Authority (IAA).
“The opposition was never prevented from appearing on state TV,” Khalifa told a press conference attended by Arab and Gulf journalists.
“In fact, we invited more than 300 Shiites from the opposition, including activists and civil servants, to appear on TV and they either refused or faked illness.”
When asked about the speech given by Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, the U.N. war crimes expert who chaired the committee, at the ceremony in which the results of the investigation were announced, Khalifa said he had several reservations on it.
“Bassiouni only focused on criticizing the government in his speech while the report itself showed that the government dealt with the events in a different way than the one publicized in the media,” he told Al Arabiya.
Regarding the discrepancy between the commission’s findings and government statements as far as Iran’s involvement in the unrest is concerned, Khalifa stated that the Bahraini government has proof of the accusations it leveled against Iran but chose not to make them public for security reasons.
“There is obvious evidence of Iran’s involvement like the meeting between Bahraini opposition leader Hussein Mushaima and Hezbollah, known for its close ties with Iran, one day before he came to Bahrain.”
Another piece of proof, he added, is the CIA announcement about the link between the suspect in the Iranian attempt to assassinate Saudi ambassador in Washington and the turmoil in Bahrain and the fact that this same man is one of the masterminds of the anti-government protests.
“Add to this the fact that most Iranian officials publicly incited violence in Bahrain and supported the Bahraini opposition on their state TV, which broadcast groundless lies.”
Khalifa also pointed out that there are continuous reports about plans to target the King Fahd Bridge which links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
Western sources announced in early November that Gholam Shakouri, one of the suspects in the Saudi ambassador’s assassination plot, was in direct contact with Hussein Mushaima and that they both met in February in the Lebanese capital Beirut.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)