(Updates with rally in fifth paragraph, British Embassy making contingency plans in last two paragraphs.)
Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Bahrain deported two U.S. activists after they participated in an illegal opposition protest, the Information Affairs Authority said.
Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath arrived in the country a few days ago and applied for tourist visas “under false pretenses” at the airport, the agency said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday. It said the two women work with a group called “Witness Bahrain” that promotes the activities of the banned Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
The deportation came three days before the Feb. 14 anniversary of last year’s anti-government rallies carried out by mostly Shiite demonstrators. The opposition plans a new push to retake the Pearl Roundabout, the center of the 2011 rallies, on Feb. 14. The roundabout has been demolished by the government and the surrounding area turned into a restricted military zone.
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said in an e- mailed statement that the two women were going to monitor the protests. The group expressed “its deep concern as to the implications of these deportations,” according to the statement.
King Hamad’s government responded to the protests by convening what he called a “national dialogue” and announced plans for constitutional changes that he said would widen representation in government. The government also released some political detainees and reinstated staff fired for allegedly supporting the protesters.
Bahrain, an island nation about four times the size of Washington DC, is the only one of the six Sunni Muslim monarchies in the Gulf Cooperation Council to have a majority- Shiite population.
Thirty-five people died in the two months of protests last year, according to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.
The protests have hurt tourism, real estate and the retail industries, contributing to an estimated $2 billion loss to the economy in 2011, according to the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce & Industry. That bill may climb with new protests.
The British Embassy has made contingency plans to repatriate British citizens if the security situation in Bahrain deteriorates, Gulf Daily News said today, citing Rupert Potter, deputy head of mission.
British Ambassador Iain Lindsay said at a briefing at the British Club yesterday the embassy was confident authorities were prepared for any eventuality, the paper said. He said there are 8,000 British citizens in Bahrain, according to the newspaper.
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