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Wefaq slams Bahrain police over excessive use of force

21 October 2015 21:08



Bahrain’s main opposition movement, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, has condemned the Al Khalifa regime’s police for excessive use of force against Shia mourners commemorating the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hossein (peace be upon him), the third Shia Imam.

The condemnation on Wednesday came after regime forces clashed with Shia villagers overnight Tuesday, pulling down Ashura (the day Imam Hossein was martyred) banners set up in what police called “undesignated areas” of villages outside the capital, Manama.

Witnesses said the regime forces attacked protesting villagers and fired buckshots to disperse them, causing casualties.

Wefaq censured the “excessive use of force” to remove the banners and added that the move amounts to “suppression of religious rituals.”

Bahrain’s anti-regime protesters, seen through a window, walk past religious flags during clashes with police firing tear gas and shotguns in the western village of Karzakan, Bahrain, October 20, 2015. (AP photo)

Bahraini authorities, in reaction, claimed that some banners had political statements that did not have anything to do with Ashura.

“Security forces took measures concerning some violations in certain villages,” police chief Tareq al-Hassan said in a statement, adding that some of the banners were in areas that “posed a danger to traffic.”

Ashura marks the day when Imam Hossein, along with 72 of his companions, was martyred in Karbala.

Imam Hussein’s martyrdom is considered by Shia Muslims as a symbol of the struggle against injustice and the need to preserve the purity of Islam.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations on the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa family to relinquish power.

Bahraini regime forces have cracked down on the protesters, killing scores of them. A large number of Bahraini activists are also languishing behind bars.

Bahraini activist’s jail sentence commuted

In a separate development on Wednesday, Bahrain’s appeals court upheld conviction of activist Zainab al-Khawaja on charges of insulting the king by ripping up a photo of him in court in 2014.

According to Amnesty International, the court, however, reduced her sentence from three years in prison to one. The 32-year-old, who is the daughter of prominent rights activist Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, still has to pay a fine of 3,000 dinars (about USD 8,000 or 7,080 euros).

In case she fails to pay the fine, her prison term would be extended by a year and a half.

Amnesty’s deputy regional director, James Lynch, denounced the verdict as a “vindictive assault on freedom of expression,” and added that it is another example of Bahraini authorities’ use of “oppressive tactics to silence peaceful activists.”

“It is ludicrous that Zainab Al-Khawaja is facing a year in prison simply for tearing up a photo of the head of state. The Bahraini authorities must ensure her conviction and prison sentence are quashed,” he said.

The young activist has been arrested several times since the 2011 uprising in the Persian Gulf country, and has already served over a year behind bars.

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