Sunday, April 10, 2011

2 Bahrain opposition supporters die police custody

By BARBARA SURK, Associated Press April 9, 2011

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Two supporters of Bahrain's anti-government
movement died in police custody Saturday after physical abuse at the hands
of security officials, activists said.

The interior ministry said the body of Rashid Zakaria Hassan, 40, was
found in a detention facility and a medical examiner determined that he
died of complications from sickle-cell anemia.

Hassan was detained April 2 on charges of "inciting hatred, publishing
false news, promoting sectarianism and calling for overthrowing of the
regime" on social networking sites, the interior ministry said.

The opposition party, Al-Wefaq, said the death occurred in "mysterious

The interior ministry said another detainee, Ali Isa Saqer, 31, died on
Saturday in police custody after "creating chaos at the detention center."

Activists believe both men were subjected to physical and mental abuse and
might have died as a result, said Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Center for
Human Rights.

"We believed they killed them in prison," Rajab said.

The interior ministry said Saqer was hurt while resisting guards' attempts
to restrain him and he died in a hospital.

Saqer was detained March 13 for attempted murder of a policeman, it said.

Authorities also detained and beat a prominent human rights activist as
they waged a continuing widespread crackdown on the opposition in this
tiny Gulf nation, a Bahraini human rights group and his relatives said.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights said Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who
formerly worked for international human rights organizations, was detained
on Saturday in a pre-dawn raid. Al-Khawaja's daughter, Zainab, confirmed
the arrest and said her father was taken from her house in a Shiite
village outside the capital, Manama.

She told The Associated Press that armed and masked men, some wearing
black police uniforms and carrying riot gear, stormed her house around 2
a.m. They beat her father unconscious before taking him into custody along
with her husband and her brother-in-law, she added.

Al-Khawaja, 50, is a former Middle East and North Africa director of
Frontline Defenders rights organization. He also documented human rights
abuses in Bahrain for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. His
daughter said he stopped working for international organizations last year
because of harassment by the authorities.

Al-Khawaja's son-in-law, Mohammed al-Maskati, who also is an activist, was
in the house during Saturday's raid. He said armed men in black uniforms
bound him with plastic handcuffs and forced him to lie on the ground
face-down while agents beat him. One man kept a foot on his neck, he said.

Bahrain declared emergency rule last month and cracked down on protests by
the country's Shiite majority against a Sunni monarchy, detaining hundreds
of activists and anti-government protesters. At least 27 people have been
killed since Feb. 14 when protests began in the strategically important
Gulf kingdom, the home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 400 people are being held by
the Bahraini authorities since the unrest began last month.

Relatives and friends of those missing since the March 16 army raid on the
protesters' encampment in Manama's Pearl Square have reported 430 names to
Al-Wefaq, the statement said.

None of the detained activists and opposition leaders have been publicly
charged with a crime or brought to trial. The authorities banned "all
media from publishing data and news" legal proceedings against anybody
being tried by the security courts, Bahrain's official news agency said in
a brief report Friday.

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