Bahrain freed Shia activist warns of violence

AFP , Tuesday 1 Mar 2011

Prominent Bahraini activist talks: the conditions where political detainees are held and warned Bahrain of more violence and bloodshed

A leading Shia activist jailed for six months and released last week warned of more bloodshed in the Gulf state ruled by a Sunni dynasty if popular demands for greater democracy were not met.

"My anticipation is that the situation will lead to more bloodshed if they [the regime] continue to turn a blind eye on the protesters in the street," said Abduljalil Singace, a leader of the hardcore opposition Haq movement and one of 25 Shias who were granted royal pardon last week.

Protesters in the Shia-majority kingdom, who have been demonstrating against the government since 14 February "will go into activities which will not be welcomed," he said.

Sporting a T-shirt that read, "Ready to die for Bahrain," Singace told AFP in an interview at his home late Monday that the Al-Khalifa monarchy's offer for dialogue was "too little, too late," as anger continues to rise in the streets of the capital Manama.

"I do not call that dialogue... The game is over," said Singace, who was detained in August on charges of terrorism and released last week.

Discontent is rising in the Shia community of Bahrain, a Saudi-allied, majority Shia archipelago which has been ruled for two centuries by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty.

Inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia protesters have since been staging street protests since 14 February against what they say are decades of discrimination and oppression.

Embattled King Hamad offered last week a concession to the anti-government camp, granting royal pardon to 308 Shia activists.

Some of the freed prisoners, including Singace, who suffers partial paralysis, have accused Bahraini authorities of torture, saying they used methods that include electrocution, solitary confinement and sleep deprivation.
The government has said it would launch a probe into the allegations.

Placing his crutches aside, Singace calmly recounted the details of his torture.

"I was in solitary confinement for 45 days at first, during which time I was deprived of my glasses and my crutches except when I was allowed to visit the toilet," he said. "For the first 10 days, I was made to wear a black mask over my eyes and could not tell how much time had passed until later."

"Others were subject to worse, from insulting their confession to sexual humiliation and threatening to rape their wives and daughters," he said.

Demonstrators at the square say the release of the activists has only boosted their determination to see their demands met.

Protesters are set to march Tuesday from the western Manama district of Salmaniya to Pearl Square, centre of the demonstrations and focal point of an ongoing sit-in that has almost paralysed the roundabout.

While opposition associations have stopped short of demanding outright regime change, their leaders have turned out daily to show support for the hundreds of Bahrainis camped out in Pearl Square.

The 18 MPs of Shia Islamic National Accord Association (INAA) opposition bloc, the largest in parliament, have also officially submitted their letters of resignation in protest against the killing of seven anti-regime demonstrators by security forces last week.

The opposition has demanded a "real" constitutional monarchy and the resignation of the government which they hold responsible for the killings.

While Crown Prince Salman has said talks were underway to launch comprehensive dialogue with all groups in the country, both protesters and opposition leaders remain unconvinced.

Haq leader Hassan Mashaima, who returned home Saturday after having been on trial in absentia, upped the rhetoric on Monday in a sermon during evening prayers in the Karbabad district of the capital.

"Any offer [worth] less than the martyrs who died will be a suicide," said Mashaima.

"Today, Al-Khalifa is doomed," he added, evoking the traditional Shia chant of "Never will we be humiliated" from the crowd.

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