Sunday, May 23, 2010

Amnesty calls for Bahrain shooting investigation | Reuters

Amnesty calls for Bahrain shooting investigation Reuters

Amnesty calls for Bahrain shooting investigation

Fri May 21, 2010 3:42pm EDT

DUBAI (Reuters) - Amnesty International has urged Bahrain to investigate whether riot police used excessive force in the shooting of an anti-government protester accused of taking part in riots in a Shi'ite village.

The London-based rights group said the protester, Hassan Ali, was shot Monday in disputed circumstances the same day that Bahrain's Attorney General said clashes between villagers and policemen resulted in a police car being set alight.

"He is suffering from 12 different gunshot wounds all over his body, including three in his head," the Bahrain Human Rights Society said, adding that Ali had been moved to a military hospital and demanding he be returned to an intensive care unit.

Local media reports said Ali would be remanded in police custody for one month.

"The authorities need to establish whether he (Ali) was the victim of excessive force, in which case the police officer who shot him and any others responsible for the use of excessive force should be held to account," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program Director, said in a statement posted on Amnesty's website Thursday.

"Police are entitled to use force, including firearms, in certain, narrowly prescribed circumstances when their own or others' lives are at risk, but the allegations here are that Hassan Ali was shot while he was posing no threat."

Shi'ites complain of discrimination by Bahrain, a key Western ally where a Sunni ruling family governs over a majority Shi'ite population. Officials deny the accusation.

The Gulf Arab island kingdom often sees night-time battles in Shi'ite villages between young protesters and security forces. Rights groups accuse the government of coercing confessions of involvement in violence from detainees.

Police said that on the day Ali was shot, they were conducting a routine patrol in the Shi'ite village of Karzakan when they came under attack by masked youths and eventually had to disperse the crowd with gunfire.

"They gathered in the street to try and preserve safety and order," the prosecutors' statement said.

"They were surprised by a launching of fireworks, followed by a crowd attacking them in large numbers and throwing Molotov cocktails."

Ali was reported to have told a leading rights activist that he was not involved in the violence, and was shot while outside his grandfather's house.

Amnesty said the Monday clash followed a recent wave of Shi'ite protests against the Sunni royal family and the government, including protests in the same village two months ago in which one person was shot and wounded.

In April 2009, Bahrain's king pardoned 178 people charged with breaching state security, including two Shi'ite opposition leaders whose arrest sparked violent protests and whose trial drew international scrutiny.

(Reporting by Frederik Richter in Bahrain and Erika Solomon in Dubai, writing by Erika Solomon, editing by Michael Roddy)