US voices concern over Bahrain

The United States called on its ally Bahrain on Saturday to investigate the case of a prominent Bahraini human rights activist who the opposition says was beaten by security forces.

Opposition activists said several security officers threw Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, to the ground and beat him on the head, neck and back after a protest march on Friday.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry has denied those accounts, saying on its Twitter feed that police found Rajab “lying on the ground” and took him to the hospital for treatment.


The Sunni-led island kingdom, home to the US Fifth Fleet, last year sought to crush anti-government demonstrations mounted by the country’s Shi’ite Muslim majority. Protest marches have continued in recent months, sometimes turning violent.

Officials from the US embassy in Manama met for about an hour on Saturday with Rajab, who had a cut beneath one eye and bruising on his face, a senior US official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“The United States is deeply concerned by continuing incidents of violence in Bahrain between police and demonstrators,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a written statement.
“While the facts surrounding the violence that transpired remain in dispute, we strongly urge the Government of Bahrain to undertake a full investigation (of Rajab’s case) to determine if excessive force was employed by police,” she added.

Nuland said embassy officials had raise Rajab’s case with senior Bahraini officials and urged the government to carry out recommendations made by an independent commission that found Bahrain used excessive force in last year’s crackdown.

“In general we urge all demonstrators to refrain from acts of violence and for police and security forces also to avoid excessive use of force,” she added.

“We are very concerned about this case,” said the senior US official who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying that if an investigation found the Bahraini police used excessive force against him, those responsible should be punished.

While the official said there has been a pattern in recent months of protesters using Molotov cocktails and throwing things at police, he said there was no indication of violence by protesters during the march in which Rajab was hurt.

In latest developments, anti-government protesters converged on the headquarters of Bahrain’s main opposition party Saturday, defying a government ban on the gathering and pressing ahead with their campaign for greater political and civil rights for the nation’s Shiite Muslims.

The protest in front of Al Wefaq’s offices in the capital of Manama was a show of defiance by the party that has been the main backer of the Shiite majority’s 10-month-old protest movement, which is aimed at breaking the Sunni dynasty’s monopoly on power in the strategically important Arab kingdom in the Persian Gulf.

The government rejected the party’s permit request for the demonstration, but thousands of protesters came anyway. They waved Bahraini flags and chanted anti-government slogans despite a massive security presence across the capital.

Opposition supporters poured into Manama from the predominantly Shiite villages that ring the capital. The villages have been the site of almost daily clashes between demonstrators and security forces since the government intensified a punishing crackdown on dissent in March.

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