6th Oct, 2013 –
A Bahraini court handed down jail sentences on 29 September to around 50 individuals, some of whom are based abroad, who it accused of involvement in terrorist activities as part of the “14 February Coalition”.
In the below article we look in detail at this “Coalition”, which is often discussed in the context of the Bahrain unrest, but which has been the cause of much confusion and misinformation.
What is the 14 February Coalition?
Several months ago, Citizens for Bahrain published an article which attracted a lot of attention entitled “The 14 February Coalition does not exist”. The article contests that this “Coalition” is no more than a convenient brand name used by parts of the Bahraini opposition.
According to this article, this “Coalition” brand was exploited by mainstream opposition groups to present an image of a grassroots protest movement, which avoids the Islamist identity of groups like Al-Wefaq Islamic Society – led by leading clerics and Ayatollahs.
When Al-Wefaq and other opposition societies entered the National Dialogue process, the 14 February Coalition brand was able to represent the current of opinion within the protest movement which rejected Dialogue and advocated violent means to bring down the Monarchy.
However, in early 2013 the authorities second-guessed the tactic of hiding behind the “Coalition” brand; by taking action against the most militant elements of the opposition, laying charges against 50 figures, who they designated as being part of this 14 February “terrorist group”.
What have “Coalition” members been found guilty of?
According to court documents:
· The “terrorist group” devised plots to plant a bomb during the F1 race, blew up ATMs, carried out arson attacks on car showrooms and planted explosives in several locations in Manama that resulted in the deaths of two Asian expatriates. Three members were behind a car bombing at the Bahrain Financial Harbour in April.
· Eight members received firearms and explosives training to carry out attacks. Six defendants provided training in weapons and explosives, while nine collected money to fund its activities. “One of the defendants also told prosecutors that he was in charge of a plan to bring weapons into Bahrain through Iraq.” Another assaulted three policemen.
· “One of the goals of the terrorist organization was to establish a military wing in Bahrain connected to the Al Shirazi Movement. They trained Bahraini teenagers on using explosives abroad and then carried out terrorist acts”. Three defendants were convicted of conspiring with Iran to plot attacks and establishing ties with the Revolutionary Guard.
· Some defendants were part of a terrorist group known as the Al Imam Army and were planning attacks on specific locations, including American targets.
· “The cell was led by masterminds in Bahrain and London who frequently travelled to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon for financial and moral support.”
What has the “Coalition” claimed responsibility for?
The “Coalition” on its Facebook page claimed responsibility for a number of attacks and acts of violence; including an attack with a car bomb on Bahrain’s Financial Harbour.
They have encouraged supporters to engage in rioting and violence, posting images of activists burning tyres, throwing Molotovs and attacking police. The organization publishes threats of violence; for example warning Grand Prix participants of the “consequences” of their actions if the Formula One went ahead; and threatening businesses and schools that their “safety couldn’t be guaranteed” if they opened on protest days.
What sentences have the “Coalition” members received?
Sixteen men were jailed for 15 years each. The High Criminal Court convicted 34 other people, including a woman, of joining the known terror cell. Four were jailed for 10 years each, while the others were sentenced to five years each.
When did the “Coalition” first appear?
At the time of the 14 February protests in Bahrain a number of names started appearing for various relatively unknown groups associated with the protest movement, such as February 14 Youth; February 14 Clerics; February 14 Media Center; February 14 Martyrs; Youth of Martyrs Square; and 14 February Youth Movement.
The “Coalition Youth of 14 Feb Revolution” first appeared on the Bahrain Online forum whose Facebook page started in April 2011. One of these groups, calling itself the February 14 Youth, was prominent in promoting the 14 February demonstrations.
However, by mid-2011 the “14 February Coalition” was the main brand being used when publishing schedules for protests; although other names like the “February 14 Movement” also appear.
What political principles does the “Coalition” stand for?
The Coalition rejects any kind of dialogue with the Bahraini authorities: “There is no way for us to accept a non-balanced dialogue that lacks all guarantees, we see this dialogue as a media tool which the regime aims to reduce the severity of popular and international pressures.”
While many parts of the mainstream opposition call for reform or an elected government “Coalition” propaganda calls for the violent bringing-down of the Monarchy: “Overthrowing the Al-Khalifa regime, which has lost its legitimacy, and bringing its heads and officials to trial, for the crimes against humanity that they have committed against our people.”
Who leads the “Coalition”?
The “Coalition” gives no names for its leadership, and nearly three years after the “Coalition” appeared, few Bahrainis could point to any prominent figures within with this group. However, the “Coalition” is closely associated with a number of opposition societies, including the Haq Movement, the Islamic Action Society, Wafa Islamic Movement and the Bahrain Freedom Movement.
According to the charges made against the “Coalition”, several prominent opposition figures based overseas, including Saeed Shehabi, Ali Mushaima, Abdulraouf Al Shayeb and Ayatollah Hadi Al Modarasi; many of whom live in London; are the “masterminds” behind many of the acts of terrorism in Bahrain.
Some of these London-based figures, like Saeed al-Shehabi, have long been associated with other groups like the Bahrain Freedom Movement – formerly the Bahrain Islamic Revolutionary Front – adding weight to the view that the “14 February Coalition” is a convenient label, rather than a coherent entity.
Many of these individuals, like Hadi al-Modarresi have well-documented links with Iran. An investigation by the Evening Standard provided documents showing Iranian payments to Saeed Shehabi and the Bahrain Freedom Movement.