|Page (1) of 1 - 12/16/11||email article||print page|
Daughter of imprisoned Bahraini activist detained during protest, rights group says
Bahrain (AP) ' A daughter of a prominent Bahraini activist was detained early Friday during an anti-government demonstration in the Gulf kingdom that has been roiled by months of protests and crackdowns, a rights group said.
Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, says Zainab al-Khawaja was detained during a rally outside the capital Manama. She is a daughter of Bahrain's most prominent political activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who was imprisoned for life along with seven other opposition leaders in June. A special security tribunal, set up under emergency rule, convicted them of anti-state crimes.
The rally, which began on Thursday near the town of Diraz and other Shiite villages west of the capital, was marked with clashes as Bahraini security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of opposition supporters attempting to protest alongside a highway leading to Manama.
Zainab's arrest came just hours after the U.S. State Department's top human rights envoy visiting the Gulf island nation expressed concern about Bahrain's use of tear gas and other tough tactics against the majority Shiite protesters. They have been campaigning for greater rights from the Sunni monarchy since February.
The government said authorities were looking into the circumstances of Zainab al-Khawaja's arrest.
Along with her father, al-Khawaja's three other male relatives have been convicted in court and imprisoned during Bahrain's uprising, including her uncle, her brother-in-law and her husband, the father of her 2-year-old daughter. The 28-year-old activist has campaigned relentlessly for their release and went on a hunger strike for 10 days earlier this year to protest their detention.
More than 35 people have died in clashes and protest-related violence since February, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts. Bahrain's protests are the largest and most sustained to have hit the Arab monarchies and sheikdoms that line the Persian Gulf.
Last month, an international panel that investigated Bahrain's unrest detailed abuses and excessive force in Bahrain's crackdown on protest. Its 500-page report that was released Nov. 23 also criticized the special security court that has sentenced dozes of opposition supporters, activists and doctors and nurses who treated injured protesters to prison sentences.
Three protesters were also sentenced to death after they were convicted in two separate trials of killing police officers.
The report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of inquiry recommended authorities review convictions and sentences handed down by the special court.
On Thursday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, head of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor called on both the government and protesters to refrain from violence. As host to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, Bahrain is strategically important to the United States.
Posner told reporters in the capital Manama that Washington remains concerned about the government's "excessive use of force, including tear gas, in response to ongoing street protests."