Bahrain lawmakers approve military trials for civilians
Feb 21, 2:24 PM EST
By JON GAMBRELL
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Bahraini lawmakers voted Tuesday to change the constitution to allow civilians to be tried in military courts
, further empowering its security forces amid a crackdown on dissent at level unseen since its 2011 Arab Spring protests.
The decision by the 40-seat Council of Representatives, the elected lower house of the tiny Gulf nation's National Assembly, comes after a royal decree a month ago restored the power of its domestic spy service to make some arrests. Limiting the power of the National Security Agency was a key reform recommended after authorities put down the 2011 demonstrations.
Activists immediately decried the vote.
"The Bahraini king is effectively creating a police state with this de facto martial law
," Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said in a statement.
Bahrain's government declined to comment as the bill had yet to be approved by the full National Assembly.
The bill revises a portion of Bahrain's constitution by removing limitations on who military courts can try
. During the council's session, Brig. Gen. Yussef Rashid Flaifel, the head of the country's military courts, told lawmakers the change is needed as the nation is "fighting terrorism."
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