Bahrain opposition leader urges release of blogger

AFP , Saturday 17 Dec 2011

Bahrain's Shiite Al-Wefaq opposition group calls state authorities to release Zainab al-Khawaja, a prominent human rights blogger who took part in a protest on a highway leading to the capital Manama

Thousands of women wave Bahraini flag as they participate in an anti-government gathering organised by al-Wafeq in Budaiya, west of Manama, December 9, 2011. (Photo:Reuters)

The leader of Bahrain's main Shiite opposition group on Friday called on the Gulf kingdom's authorities to release a prominent human rights blogger who was detained during a protest.

Police arrested Zainab al-Khawaja on Thursday as she took part in a protest on a highway leading to the capital Manama, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

A video posted online showed her being roughed up, handcuffed and dragged away.

"We support Zainab and call for her release," Ali Salman, leader of the Al-Wefaq opposition group, told AFP during a visit to London.

He said continued arrests of protesters showed that the government was not serious about enacting reforms it had promised after the publication last month of a highly criticial report on the protests in February and March.

The report said the death toll from a crackdown on the Shiite-led pro-democracy protests in Bahrain had reached 35, and police had used "excessive force" and tortured detainees.

"After the report, they return to the same methods... they kill more people they put more people in prison," said Salman.

"It sends a bad message from the regime that it does not respect the recommendations of the report."

Salman also said he is to hold talks with the British minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, on Monday in London.

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