Bahraini Youth Riot Over Detainees – Bahrain Freedom Movement

Clashes between Bahraini police and Shia youths are continuing on a daily basis despite a ruling acquitting 19 youth activists of murder. “There are clashes almost every night in the villages,” Nader Al-Salatna, Vice President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, told The Media Line. “Youths start marching, asking for jobs with a living wage, or calling for detained activists to be freed, the government tries to stop it and this leads to clashes.”The news comes after 19 young men accused of murdering a Pakistani policeman in the Shia village of Karzakan last year were acquitted of the crime by a Bahraini court less than two weeks ago.The government accused the men of murdering the 24-year-old police officer, Majid Asghar Baksh, by throwing Molotov cocktails at unmarked police vehicles.The 15-lawyer defense team argued the government’s case was based on confessions obtained using torture and a medical examiner determined the officer to have died as the result of a fall, not from a Molotov cocktail.”Most of the youth here support more democratic rights,” said Al-Salatna. “After one and a half years of being tortured in jail they were freed without any charges.”

The court found the government to lack sufficient evidence and released all the detainees, but the trial led to a national political drama and to clashes between Bahraini police and primarily Shia youths throughout the country.

Anger abounds over another case, in which ten young men have been arrested for the murder of a 58-year-old Pakistani man, burned to death in a civilian pickup truck in March in the Shia village of Ma’amer. The government accuses the youths of attacking the vehicle, under the false impression that it was an undercover police vehicle.

Human Rights groups claim the government is persecuting the men for their political activism and this second case has led to a new wave of Shia youth protests.

“The people arrested were not in the area that night and witnesses have attested to this fact,” Al-Salatna claimed, referring to the burning car case. “But most of the detainees are activists so the government is charging them with murder… There are only one or two Sunnis in jail, so naturally most of the clashes involve Shia youth from rural areas.”

“Usually what happens is that there is a march to free the detainees,” he said. “The police will come and shoot at the youths with tear gas and rubber bullets, so the youths throw stones and burn tires in the road to try stop the police.”

Bahraini opposition groups have depicted the riots as a result of government discrimination and persecution of the Shia community.

Regardless of the protests’ origin, Bahrain analysts say the government should have seen the wave of protests coming.

“Everybody knows there is discrimination against Shias in Bahrain and I’m sure this is out of stress,” Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, a Saudi analyst of Bahrain, told The Media Line. “These boys have no jobs, no income, and live very harsh lives and the government is not doing much about it.”

“For every action there is a reaction,” she said. “The more the government pushes people the more they will see action in the streets. Young jobless Shia men see these big buildings and people making a lot of money as the government brings new citizens into the country, so of course they will get angry.”

In an effort to reduce Shia-Sunni tensions in the country, in April Bahrain’s King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa pardoned 178 Shia detainees and wanted men.

Both court cases were said to be included in the deal, but it fell apart in June with the Bahraini opposition accusing the government of failing to comply with a compensation agreement with the families of the two men killed.

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