Bahraini protester's death sparks riot
A Bahraini protester found dead on a rooftop after clashes with police during the Formula One Grand Prix at the weekend was apparently killed by birdshot rounds and his body bore several bruises, his brother said on Monday.
Salah Abbas Habib (36) was buried on Monday after a funeral attended by about 15 000 people, a Reuters witness said.
After the ceremony, hundreds of protesters threw petrol bombs and stones at a police station in the district of al-Bilad al-Qadeem in the capital Manama. Police fired tear gas and sound grenades.
His brother said a coroner’s report concluded that Habib died of birdshot wounds to the chest and abdomen.
“We just got the body back. He had birdshot wounds in his chest and abdomen,” Hussein Abbas Habib said by telephone from Manama, adding that the body also had bad bruises on the hands, back and legs.
Ruled by the Al Khalifa family, Bahrain has been in turmoil since mainly Shi’ite pro-democracy protests that erupted last year, which were put down in March 2011 with the help of troops from fellow Sunni-led Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia.
Majority Shi’ites complain they have long been marginalised.
Investigating Habib’s death
Bahrain’s interior ministry has already said it is launching an investigation into Habib’s death.
The dead man took part in overnight protests on Friday but had to flee after riot police arrived to disperse demonstrators and came after him, his brother said.
He hid on a roof, he added, citing witnesses. He was found dead soon after that.
Mohammed al-Maskati of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights told Reuters that witnesses said Habib had been hit while running away from police.
The leader of the main opposition party warned on Monday that the conflict in Bahrain would grow more violent if the government did not undertake political reform.
“We want to sit down and talk to them, but they are refusing to enter a dialogue with us. They put obstacles and diversions to present a picture of reforms that actually only reconfirm and reinstate the dictatorship,” Sheikh Ali Salman said.
“We have reached an impasse. This government is not serious about having a real dialogue, to listen to the demands of the Bahraini people and implement those demands which cannot be ignored,” he said.
In a separate development, Amnesty International on Monday criticised a Bahraini appeals court for delaying until April 30 a hearing for a group of protest leaders sentenced over last year’s uprising, including one who has been on a hunger strike for more than two months.
“The Bahrain authorities’ delaying tactics are toying with the life of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is on death’s doorstep as he enters his 75th day on hunger strike,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, an Amnesty regional deputy director, said in a statement.
Sponsors who ploughed money into Formula One have been left squirming after the motor sport’s organisers ignored opposition calls to cancel the race.
But Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone said “there is no such thing as bad publicity”, putting a positive spin on the race, which drew widespread condemnation from abroad and became a focus for anti-government protests in the small island kingdom.
Britain’s Channel 4 said on its website on Monday that its three-man news team had been deported after being detained on Sunday.
While motor sports journalists were invited to cover the race, reporters from Reuters and some other news organisations who usually write about Middle East politics were denied visas. Channel 4 said its team had been working without accreditation.
“So when we were caught filming a planned demonstration in one of the Shia villages, they have not been particularly pleasant,” correspondent Jonathan Miller said in a posting on the website.—Reuters