Thursday, September 08, 2011

Bahrain panel: 101 activists on hunger strike

Sept. 7, 2011 Associated Press

MANAMA, Bahrain — More than 100 jailed Bahraini activists — including
doctors who treated injured protesters during months of anti-government
protests and crackdowns in the Gulf kingdom — are on hunger strike, an
international panel said Wednesday.

The Bahrain Commission of Inquiry said in a statement that 84 opposition
supporters are on hunger strike in prison. In addition, 17 detained
activists have been hospitalized by the Interior Ministry for their
refusal to eat.

Hundreds of activists have been imprisoned since February when Shiite-led
demonstrations for greater rights began in the Sunni-ruled Bahrain, the
home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. More than 30 people have been killed
since protests inspired by Arab uprisings began in February.

Large clashes broke out between riot police and youth protesters after a
celebration over the release of one of the doctors from prison in northern
city of Dih.

An unknown number of protesters were wounded when security forces fired
shotguns, according to witnesses. Clashes between youth and police are a
near nightly occurence in Bahrain, but Wednesday evening's clashes in Dih
were the largest in weeks, witnesses said.

The five-member panel has been set up in June to investigate the unrest.
Wednesday's statement said an international expert on hunger strikes will
join the panel to visit the striking detainees and evaluate their

"Medical advice will be provided and the expert will discuss the
challenges of hunger strike," the statement said, adding that the hunger
strike started nine days ago.

Among the jailed activists on hunger strike are doctors who are on trial
in a special security court on charges of participating in efforts to
overthrow Bahrain's 200-year-old monarchy.

The doctors' trial is being closely watched by rights groups, which have
criticized Bahrain's use of the security court, which includes military
prosecutors and civilians and military judges.

The case against 11 health professionals was back in the special tribunal
on Wednesday. After the hearing, the eleven defendants were released from
custody, although they remain charged with anti-state crimes, a lawyer for
one of the doctors said. It was not immediately clear if the released
doctors continue to strike.

The lawyer, Hassan Radhi, told The Associated Press the trial adjourned
until Sept. 26.

Other jailed opposition supporters have joined the strike, including two
prominent Shiite activists, Abdul Jalil al-Singace and Abdulhadi
al-Khawaja. They were sentenced to life in prison in June for their role
in protests.

The Bahrain Commission of Inquiry includes international judicial and
human rights experts. They started the probe with the consent of the Sunni

The commission's findings are expected Oct. 30.

Shiites comprise about 70 percent of Bahrain's 525,000 people, but are
blocked from top political and security posts.

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