Teenage activist killed in Bahrain protest
A 14-year-old boy was killed during a peaceful demonstration in Bahrain’s central town of Sitra today, where dozens of demonstrators took part in anti-government protests marking the feast of ‘Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan. ‘Ali Jawad Ahmad al-Shaikh died from a head injury after being hit by a tear gas canister thrown by riot police, a local human rights group said.“This tragic death occurred during a peaceful protest where police appear to have used excessive force against people demonstrating against the government,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.“The police have a duty to uphold the law, but it is completely unacceptable to throw heavy gas canisters at children. The authorities must investigate ‘Ali Jawad Ahmad al-Shaikh’s death immediately in a thorough, independent and impartial manner, and those responsible must be held to account,” he added.The Ministry of Interior denied there was any police action in Sitra at the time of the boy’s death this morning. It said that ‘Ali Jawad Ahmad al-Shaikh was already dead when he arrived at hospital, but gave no explanation for the cause of death.However, the boy’s uncle told the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights that police had overreacted to the protests, firing tear gas directly at the protesters at close range. Many Shi’a villages have held small-scale protests almost nightly since Ramadan began on 1 August. Police have responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.This latest death brings the total number of deaths since pro-reform protests started on 14 February to 34, of whom 30 have been protesters. It came two days after the King announced that some detainees and prisoners would be pardoned. As of today no further details have been released. The Shi’a population are the majority in Bahrain but say they are discriminated against by the ruling Sunni dynasty.At least 500 people have been detained in Bahrain since pro-reform protests began in February and four have died in custody in suspicious circumstances. More than 2,500 people have been dismissed or suspended from work.On 6 September a military court will hear the appeal of 21 prominent opposition leaders who have been given lengthy prison terms of up to life imprisonment. The charges against them included “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution”.In another case connected to the February protests, the trial of 20 Bahraini health professionals accused of crimes will resume on 7 September before a military court. Amnesty International believes that the 20 health workers are possible prisoners of conscience and that their trial does not meet international standards for fair trial.Parliamentary by-elections are scheduled in the Gulf kingdom for 24 September. The polls are being held to fill 18 seats vacated by al-Wefaq, the largest Shi’a Muslim opposition group. The lawmakers resigned in February to protest against the way the authorities handled demonstrations in Manama.