Jailed Bahraini activists ended a hunger strike after eight days of refusing to eat in protest of a new crackdown on demonstrations, a rights activist said on Wednesday. "The strike was ended two days ago... It lasted eight days," the head of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mohammed al-Maskati, told AFP. Top interior ministry official, Major General Ibrahim al-Ghaith, said on 1 February that some 100 out of 180 jailed activists were still on strike the day before.
Maskati said the inmates' families only discovered that the strike had been called off on Tuesday, when prisoners were allowed to telephone their relatives. Leading opposition figures serving sentences ranging from two years to life after being convicted of plotting to overthrow the Gulf kingdom's Sunni regime began their hunger strike on the night of 29 January. They were joined by inmates and detainees held on charges related to a month-long protest crushed in mid-March. The crackdown led to the deaths of 35 people, including five security personnel and five detainees who were tortured to death, an independent commission of inquiry appointed by King Hamad found.
Tensions have been running high in the Gulf kingdom as opposition and activists prepare to commemorate the first anniversary of their uprising on 14February. Bahraini activists have announced plans to march on Manama's former Pearl Square, the focal point of the protest, which was razed in the process. Maskati complained that security forces were conducting dawn raids on Shiite villages and arresting people in what appeared to be a pre-emptive measure "to prevent any attempt to return" to Pearl Square. "Squads conduct raids at dawn. They carry lists of wanted people," he said, claiming that more than 100 Bahrainis have been arrested since the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile, a week-long rally called for by the Shiite-led opposition will be concluded on Wednesday instead of Saturday, according to the main Shiite opposition formation Al-Wefaq. Authorities say the assembly was authorised for two days only. But the interior ministry on Sunday said gatherings would be deemed "legal" until Wednesday.