Bahrain says arrests Shi’ites after weekend clashes
MANAMA (Reuters) – Bahraini police arrested a number of Shi’ites at the weekend for shouting anti-government slogans during a religious festival in the Gulf Arab state, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.
Police clashed with Shi’ite marchers on Sunday, less than a week after the kingdom, ruled by its Sunni Muslim minority, repealed an emergency law that quashed weeks of protests.
“Some small groups broke the law on Sunday by exploiting the commemoration of the death of the Imam Hadi to stage marches and repeat political slogans that violate (the law),” the official news agency quoted spokesman Tareq bin Dayna as saying.
“A number of those provoking disturbances were arrested … and have been transferred to public prosecution.”
Residents and leading Shi’ite opposition group Wefaq said on Sunday that police used tear gas, rubber bullets, sound grenades and birdshot to break up marches in several Shi’ite villages around the capital Manama.
Marchers in some of the parades shouted “Down, down (King) Hamad” and “The people want the fall of the regime.” Some of the gatherings were purely religious, residents said.
The unrest came just two days after the tiny island kingdom’s Formula One Grand Prix was reinstated in a public relations coup for the royal family after over two months of martial law. Its original March date had been postponed due to protests at the time.
In March, Bahrain called in troops from neighbouring Sunni led Gulf Arab countries to quash the democracy protests, accusing the protesters of having a sectarian agenda and help from Shi’ite power Iran. The opposition deny this.
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, says the Saudi and Emirati forces will remain in the country indefinitely to help face a perceived threat from Iran, across a short stretch of water from Bahrain.
Shi’ite villagers, some beating their chests and chanting religious verses as they marched through the streets, were marking the festival of Azza, which commemorates the death of one of the 12 Imams, or early Shi’ite religious leaders.
(Reporting by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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