Bahraini activist Zainab AlKhawaja beaten, arrested

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A woman shouts anti-government slogans as she stands amidst tear gas fired by riot police to disperse a sit-in at a roundabout on Budaiya Highway, west of Manama (photo: REUTERS - Hamad I Mohammed)

Published Friday, December 16, 2011

Prominent Bahraini human rights activist Zainab AlKhawaja was arrested by Bahraini police on Thursday during a pro-democracy protest, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said.

AlKhawaja was taking part in a peaceful protest along a highway leading to the capital Manama, staging a sit-in at a roundabout with several other women before police moved in, according to the rights group.

Activists allege police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of protesters, and finally dragging AlKhawaja into a police vehicle.

AlKhawaja's arrest was secretly filmed on camera by activists, with the below video showing female police officers handcuffing AlKhawaja, before dragging her on the ground and slapping her in the face several times.

AlKhawaja is the daughter of leading human rights activist AbdulHadi AlKhawaja, former head of the BCHR, and wife of another activist Wadi AlMajed.

Both her father and brother are behind bars for participating in mass pro-democracy protests in February. Her father was sentenced to life in prison, while her husband four years.

AlKhawaja's detention leaves behind her one-year old child, with both parents now detained for pro-democracy activity.

Protests have resurfaced in Bahrain in recent weeks after a government crackdown earlier in the year largely crushed the mass uprising in February, killing at least 35 people.

Saudi Arabia and neighboring Gulf states sent in troops to help Bahraini authorities crush the protests, fearing the spread of the pro-democracy Arab Spring that has already overthrown three governments in the Arab world.

The crackdown resulted in hundreds of activists being detained and jailed.

Bahrain has accused Iran and Syria of fomenting unrest through the support of Bahrain's majority Shia population. Both countries deny Manama's accusations.

A commission established by the ruling royal family found that systematic torture was employed during the crackdown.

Activists reject the commission's validity, questioning its impartiality as it was founded and funded by the same authorities responsible for the violent crackdown.

(Al-Akhbar)

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