JNN 18 Dec 2012 Manama : Security forces in Bahrain fired tear gas ,stun grenades and arrested protesters Monday to break up protests after calls by anti-government groups during marches in the traditional market area of the Gulf nation’s capital, forcing many businesses to close.
Authorities set up checkpoints and expanded patrols across Manama before demonstrations on Monday to mark an annual commemoration for two protesters killed in 1994, AP reported.
Separate groups of hundreds of protesters were chanting in the narrow streets of the city’s traditional market district. Some of the crowds were dispersed with tear gas and volleys of stun grenades.
It’s the latest attempt by pro-democracy protesters to stage marches in the heart of the capital.
The clashes underlined the volatility of the tiny, strategic island nation, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, where the Shiite Muslim majority is demanding a democratically elected government from the Saudi Backed Wahabi monarchy.
The Interior Ministry said it made a “number” of arrests. Among them was rights activist Yousef al-Muhafedha, the acting head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said his wife Zainab al-Sairafi.
Al-Muhafedha’s arrest could stir more backlash, less than a week after a Bahrain court rejected an appeal to overturn the jail sentence of the rights center’s director, Nabeel Rajab. The court cut one year from his three-year sentence on charges of encouraging “illegal gatherings” linked to the 22-month uprising against the kingdom’s ruling system.
More than 55 people have been killed in unrest since February 2011, when Bahrain’s majority Shiites escalated their fight for a greater political voice in the Wahabi-ruled kingdom.
The Bahraini revolution began in mid-February 2011, when the people, inspired by the popular revolutions that toppled the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt, started holding massive demonstrations.
The Bahraini government promptly launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring Persian Gulf states.
Dozens of people have been killed in the crackdown, and the security forces have arrested hundreds, including doctors and nurses accused of treating injured revolutionaries.
A report published by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in November 2011 found that the Al Khalifa regime had used excessive force in the crackdown and accused Manama of torturing political activists, politicians, and protesters.
The protesters say they will continue holding anti-regime demonstrations until their demand for the establishment of a democratically elected government is met.
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