News24

Bahrain protesters clash with police

2012-05-11 12:07

Dubai - Bahrain police fired tear gas and birdshot during overnight clashes with protesters demanding the release of jailed opposition activists, wounding several demonstrators, witnesses said on Friday.

The clashes broke in Shi'ite villages around the capital Manama when hundreds of demonstrators flooded the streets chanting anti-regime slogans and calling on the authorities to release the prisoners, the witnesses said.

It was not immediately clear how many people were wounded and the witnesses said the injured could not be taken to hospital for treatment for fear that police would arrest them.

"With our blood and our soul, we will avenge the martyrs," sang the demonstrators, some of whom were masked. "Down With Hamad," they chanted in reference to the Shi'ite-majority Gulf state's Sunni ruler, King Hamad.

Demonstrators held up pictures of prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who was arrested last Saturday for tweets deemed insulting to the government.

Amnesty International has urged Bahrain to free Rajab immediately.

Hunger strike

"Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience and he must be immediately and unconditionally released," said Philip Luther, head of the London-based watchdog's Middle East and North Africa programme.

"This is the Bahraini authorities' latest attempt to clamp down on dissenting voices in the country," he said in a statement earlier this week.

Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was arrested at Manama airport after returning from a trip to Denmark, Sweden and Lebanon.

He is among a number of prominent opposition figures detained by the authorities. Others include leading activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike since February.

Khawaja, who has become a symbol of the opposition movement, was arrested in April last year shortly after the authorities crushed month-long Shi'ite protests in a crackdown that killed 35 people, according to an independent inquiry.

Amnesty says in total 60 people have been killed since the protests began in February last year.