Bahrain buries dead blogger as government crackdown continues

Arab World Materials 12 April 2011 01:42 (UTC +04:00)

Hundreds of mourners took part in a funeral procession in Bahrain on Monday for dead blogger Zakria Rashid al-Asherri, who died while in police custody, dpa reported.

Tight security was in place in al-Asherri's home village of Dair, north of the capital Manama.

Anti-riot police were deployed near the graveyard where he was buried and a police helicopter hovered above.

Al-Asherri, 40, was one of two detainees to be announced dead by the authorities on Saturday while in their custody. The other detainee, Ali Isa Saqer, 31, died after police used force to subdue him. He was buried on Sunday amid further controversy.

The Ministry of Interior has attributed al-Asherri's death to medical complications deriving from a blood disease. But his family disputes the findings of the initial autopsy, arguing that he was only a carrier of the disease. They suspect he died as a result of torture.

A new autopsy has been carried out to determine the cause of death.

The father of a 12-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl was detained on April 2 for running a website which the authorities say he used to incite hatred of the regime and call for its overthrow.

Three people have now died in police custody in in Bahrain in less than a week.

Meanwhile, the former editor-in-chief of the local Arabic daily al-Wasat, Mansoor al-Jamri, as well as a former managing editor and a former head of local news were questioned by the public prosecutor for allegedly publishing fake news about the unrest and protests that have been witnessed in the Gulf island since pro-reforms protests began on 14 February.

Prosecutors later said the three would be charged with circulating false news that harmed the public's interest. The editors deny the charges.

Also on Monday, Bahrain's health minister, Fatima al-Balooshi, said her ministry, which employs approximately 9,500 people, had suspended 30 staff, including doctors and nurses, for their alleged role in supporting the protests and involvement in criminal activities.

She said an additional 150 medical workers were being investigated for their alleged involvement.

Sources told the German Press Agency dpa that five doctors were detained, in addition to eight that are already being held, among them several female doctors.

The international humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres says the country's hospitals are no longer safe havens for the sick or injured, but rather places where patients risk being beaten and arrested by the authorities.

The government's brutal crackdown on the opposition has so far led to the death of at least 21 people and the arrest of more then 400.

Hundreds of others, mainly Shiite Muslims, have been sacked from their jobs for taking part in a general strike called to express support for the protests.

Bahrain is a Sunni monarchy where Shiites account for some 60 per cent of the population and serves as a home for the US Navy 5th Fleet.