MANAMA, (Reuters) – Bahrain’s riot police clashed with some 200 Shi’ite protesters in the capital Manama on Friday after the arrest of a Shi’ite opposition figure and a human rights activist.
The police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters who burned tyres and hurled stones at policemen while chanting anti-government slogans.
Some protesters said at least 10 people were wounded by rubber bullets. The number could not be confirmed by independent sources, but a Reuters witness saw one wounded protester.
The protest broke out after the arrest of the head of the Haaq Movement for Liberty and Democratic Bahrain Hassan Mushaima and the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja, a spokesman of Haaq said.
Haaq comprises Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim activists.
Officials were not immediately available for comment on the arrests, but the spokesman of Haaq said the authorities accused the two men of distributing a report that alleges wrongdoings by the government to undermine the political rights of the country’s Shi’ite majority.
Sunni-ruled Bahrain witnessed political unrest in the 1980s and 1990s, mostly by Shi’ites demanding more rights.
Bahrain’s biggest Shi’ite opposition group Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, which won 17 of parliament’s 40 seats late last year, said its chief would be meeting with the interior minister to resolve the issue.
Wefaq said in the statement that the arrests “happened in a non-humanitarian manner and threaten progress of freedom of speech” in the Gulf Arab kingdom.
“With the arrest of these people they are bringing the fire to their own houses … they will pay for it,” said Jaafari, one of the protesters.
After succeeding his late father in 1999, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa introduced some political reforms and pardoned political prisoners.