Friday, December 28, 2007

Bahraini Protestors Face Riot Charges

Bahraini Protestors Face Riot Charges

MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec 28--Bahraini prosecutors have charged over a dozen people detained after recent Shiite protests with attempted murder and illegal assembly and rioting.The charges followed arrests in police raids in the wake of last week's demonstrations, which erupted after the death of a Bahraini protester who took part in a rally commemorating social unrest in the 1990s.Demonstrations broke out at the man's funeral and then at memorial services which resulted in severe clashes with security services.Defense lawyer Mohammed al-Jashi said three people were charged with attempted murder in clashes with riot police, and 11 with illegal assembly and rioting.

The Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy said in a statement that 31 of the arrested were charged with illegal assembly, rioting, theft of weapons and ammunition, and illegal possession of arms.The discrepancy in the numbers of those charged could not immediately be reconciled.The Haq Movement on Thursday put the number of detainees at 50 and listed their names.It was not immediately clear when those charged would stand trial.

Under Bahraini law, attempted murder carries a maximum of 25 years in jail.The Haq Movement said heavily armed security forces stormed Thursday the house of Ibrahim Ameen al-Arab, from the Shiite civil society group called Amal Islamic Action Society without a warrant, and "detained him, insulted and terrorized his family.''

Some relatives of the detainees Shiites also gathered Thursday near the prosecutors office demanding to visit their relatives. On Wednesday, leaders of one Shiite opposition faction began a hunger strike to protest the crackdown.

The Haq Movement said sit-ins were also held in three other areas demanding the release of the detainees.

Shiites account for about 70 percent of Bahrain's 450,000 citizens, but the ruling family is Sunni.Wealthy and relatively cosmopolitan, Bahrain, with a population of more than 700,000, is a strong American ally and home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols the Persian Gulf.

Economic disparities between the ruling elite and the poorer majority have contributed to feelings of marginalization among Shiites, who have waged an occasionally violent campaign against the government.

Resentment among Bahrainis is also high over alleged government policy of granting citizenship to Sunnis from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Baluchistan province in Pakistan and giving them housing and jobs, often in the security forces.

Bahrain government dismissed reports on the existence of Fedayeen Saddam militia in Bahrain used to assist security forces in the recent violent rallies and riots.Also some reports being circulated through web-forums, both from inside and outside Bahrain, claim that the Fedayeen Saddam militia members dressed in civilian clothes moved alongside riot police in the disturbed districts in Bahrain.