Bahrain police detain, beat rights activist

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was detained on Saturday in a pre-dawn raid.

Updated: Apr 09, 2011, 16:21 PM IST

Dubai: Authorities in Bahrain on Saturday detained and beat a prominent human rights activist in part of widespread crackdown on the opposition in this tiny Gulf nation, a Bahraini human rights group and his relatives said.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who formerly worked for international human rights organisations, was detained on Saturday in a pre-dawn raid. Al-Khawaja`s daughter, Zainab, confirmed the arrest and said her father was taken from her house in a Shi’ite village outside the capital, Manama.

She said that armed and masked men, some wearing black police uniforms and carrying riot gear, stormed her house around 2:00 am on Saturday. They beat her father unconscious before leading him into custody along with her husband and her brother-in-law, she added.

"They were not just slapping him around, they were beating him badly like they wanted to hurt him," Zainab al-Khawaja said on the phone. She said one agent was holding her father by the neck and at least four were beating him severely and kicking him as they were dragging him down a flight of stairs.

"They kept saying to him `We will kill you` and I begged them to not beat him because he is willing to go with them peacefully," the activist`s daughter said. "I heard my father gasping for air, saying he cannot breath, but they just kept hitting him until he passed out."

Al-Khawaja, 50, is a former Middle East and North Africa director of Frontline Defenders rights organisation. He also documented human rights abuses in Bahrain for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. His daughter said he stopped working for international organizations last year because of harassment by the authorities.

Bahrain declared emergency rule last month and cracked down on protests by the country`s Shi’ite majority against a Sunni monarchy, detaining hundreds of activists and anti-government protesters. At least 27 people have been killed since protests in the strategically important Gulf kingdom began on February 14.

Bahrain is the home of the US Navy`s 5th Fleet.

Bureau Report