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Bahrain releases women seized in election protest

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 27 Sep 2011 20:39 GMT
Author: Reuters
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MANAMA, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Bahrain said on Tuesday it had released 25 Shi'ite women arrested last week over a shopping mall protest for political reforms in the Sunni-run Gulf Arab state and denied that they had been abused in detention.

Police detained 45 women who shouted anti-government slogans in a Manama mall a day before parliamentary by-elections boycotted by the main Shi'ite opposition party Wefaq.

A government statement described the women, who included seven minors, as "racing through the mall, causing panic among families carrying out their weekend shopping".

An Interior Ministry official said allegations of mistreatment in detention were not true, the statement said.

"Those distorting the truth must know that protecting women and preserving their dignity requires them not to incite women to illegal practices," the official was quoted as saying.

Amnesty International said on Monday it feared the detainees had been tortured.

"They were apprehended without arrest orders, interrogated without lawyers present and some of them reportedly tortured or otherwise ill-treated," the London-based group said.

The arrests threatened to heighten tension between Shi'ites and security forces who have clashed on an almost daily basis in many Shi'ite communities in the island state, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

Bahrain crushed a pro-democracy movement in March, saying it had Shi'ite sectarian aims and Iranian backing.

A group calling itself the February 14 Youth Coalition, activists involved in the uprising, called on Monday for an escalation in the clashes with police. Citing the arrest of the women, it said security measures had gone too far.

Shi'ites want political reforms that would give parliament real legislative clout and remove a prime minister from the ruling Al Khalifa family who has occupied the post since 1971.

They also want jobs given back to many who were dismissed for taking part in the protests.

The government says it will allow parliament more powers to monitor cabinet ministers and that the ongoing clashes are holding up economic recovery. (Reporting by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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