Key Shiite opposition leader to return to Bahrain

The return of Hassan Mushaima could mark a new phase for anti-govt movement.

Last Updated: Feb 26, 2011, 22:20 PM IST

Beirut: A prominent Bahraini opposition
leader was returning home on Saturday after months of exile, and
urged the rulers of the tiny Gulf nation to be responsive to
demands for more political freedoms.

The return of Hassan Mushaima, a senior Shiite figure,
could mark a new phase for an anti-government movement in the
strategic Gulf nation, which is home to the US Navy`s 5th
Fleet.
Mushaima had spent several months in voluntary exile
in London, and was heading yesterday from Lebanon to Bahrain.
He is head of a Shiite group known as Haq, which is considered
more hard-line than the main Shiite political bloc that has so
far led two weeks of protests.

Mushaima said he would begin a dialogue with various
political factions "so that we may find common ground
regarding the demands of the Bahraini people."

Any attempt by authorities in Bahrain to restrict his
movements would only inflame tensions there, Mushaima said in
a telephone interview from Beirut airport.
He urged the Bahraini government to be responsive to
the demands of the protesters. "There are young people who
sacrificed and offered up martyrs and are ready to offer up
more. We must respect their calls for change," he said.

Mushaima declined to elaborate on his party`s demands,
saying he will be making a speech to supporters upon arrival
in Bahrain.

The Bahraini opposition currently appears divided over
whether to demand an end to the Sunni monarchy or offer it a
chance to remain in exchange for handing powers to the elected
parliament.

Bureau Report