Bahrain arrests female activist, deports US citizens amid clashes

Bahrain arrests female activist, deports US citizens amid clashes

Authorities in Bahrain on Sunday arrested a prominent female activist and deported two US citizens as clashes between police and pro-reform protesters continued ahead of the first anniversary of the February 14th revolution, dpa reported.

Clashes intensified as residents in areas supporting the protests conducted sit-ins in-front of their homes to show their defiance, with police moving in to disperse them.

The protesters had vowed to attempt to return on Sunday to Lulu Roundabout in Manama, which had been the scene of large-scale protests but had been closed and under security forces' control since March.

Activist and blogger Zainab al-Khawaja, the daughter of jailed human-rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, was arrested as she approached the roundabout with other activists.

Al-Khawaja was detained for about a week in December for taking part in a protest north of the capital, with police handcuffing her before she was dragged and beaten for refusing to disperse.

Her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, was sentenced in June with eight other opposition leaders by a military court to life in prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the regime. Thirteen other opposition and religious leaders standing trial on the same charges received harsh sentences of up to 15 years.

Authorities also deported Sunday two American activists, Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath, who were detained a day earlier at a march toward the roundabout.

Arraf, an American-Palestinian who is co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement and chairwoman of the Free Gaza Movement, and Sainath, an American-Indian solidarity activist, had arrived in Bahrain in recent days along with other western activists to show support ahead of the first anniversary of the protests.

Manama authorities said they were deporting the women, both lawyers, for failing to properly declare the purpose of their visit to immigration officials. They also cited their participation in protests and the establishment of a website and Twitter account as reason for the deportation.

The witnessbahrain.org website they established to report their observations was also blocked by the authorities.

Leading opposition group Al-Wefaq said the two women were handcuffed and denied medical access and restrooms while being deported to New York via a flight to London.

Adam Shapiro, who heads campaigns at the Dublin based Front Line Defenders, said Sainath was punched in the head several times to get her into the plane, Arraf's hair was pulled and both women were not given water or food during the flight.

The clashes left several protesters injured, including at least one with a serious shot-gun injury. Police used sound-grenades, bird-shot rounds and tear-gas to disperse protesters, who responded with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

According to the opposition, more then 60 people have been killed since the protests began last year. The death toll includes civilians who have died as a result of being exposed to tear-gas and at least four who have died in police custody.

Four police officers were also been killed when police and military forces moved to clear the pro-reform protest site, Lulu Roundabout, and impose martial laws in March.

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