(CNN) -- Bahrain, the tiny Arab kingdom engulfed in strife between the Sunni government and the majority Shiite populace, has initiated court action to dissolve two opposition parties, a lawmaker told CNN on Thursday.
The claim called for the dissolution of the Wefaq and Al-Amal movements, two Shiite groups in the forefront of recent protests against the Bahrain government, a key U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf.
Abdul Khalil Jalil, a member of parliament from Wefaq, confirmed the development but didn't provide details.
Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy anchors its Fifth Fleet, is a small predominantly Shiite country governed by a Sunni royal family.
It called in Saudi Arabia and other regional troops to help end the protests, which swept across the kingdom earlier this year as populations across the Arab world rose up against their rulers.
Bahrain's Sunni Muslim monarchy has long suspected Iran of attempting to foment unrest among the island's majority-Shiite population, leaked U.S. diplomatic documents show, and Iran has asserted territorial claims over the onetime Persian province both before and after the 1979 revolution brought the current Islamic republic to power
The government has come under fire by human rights groups for its stiff crackdown. A fourth person who died while in the custody of Bahrain police in recent days may have been tortured, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday, as it called for urgent investigations into the deaths of detainees.
The Bahrain government has said in the past all accusations about detainees will be investigated.
Protesters initially took to the streets of Manama, the capital, to demand reform and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy.
But some are now calling for the removal of the royal family, which has led the Persian Gulf state since the 18th century.
Young members of the country's Shiite Muslim majority have staged protests in recent years to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption, issues they say the country's Sunni rulers have done little to address.
CNN's Jenifer Fenton contributed to this report