MANAMA (Reuters) - The head of Bahrain’s civil service denied sacking any employees after the largely Shi‘ite pro-democracy protests that the Sunni-ruled kingdom crushed last month with military help from Gulf Arab neighbours.
Bahraini opposition groups and rights organizations say hundreds of public employees were dismissed on the grounds that they took part in protests. Bahrain says it had taken steps only against those who committed crimes during the protests.
“Up to now, no one has been dismissed for disciplinary reasons,” state media quoted civil service chief Ahmad bin Zayed al-Zayed as saying, adding that any disciplinary measure would be for strictly defined administrative and criminal offences.
In comments reported late on Tuesday on Bahrain’s state news agency, he denied “what has been said about the dismissal of a number of employees ... in positions under the umbrella of the civil service.”
The issue has further inflamed tension between Bahrain’s Shi‘ite Muslim majority and its Sunni Muslim ruling family, which has accused predominantly Shi‘ite Muslim Iran of fomenting the protests in collusion with its Bahraini coreligionists.
Bahrain’s health ministry on Tuesday sent to the prosecutor the names of 30 employees suspended following protests for “acts which appear to constitute crimes.” It said 10 other employees who had been suspended would be allowed to return to work.
Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, also has a free trade pact with the United States which the AFL-CIO trade union confederation last week urged Washington to pull out of in response to violations of human and labour rights by Bahrain.
Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Tim Pearce