Bahrain's king sets compensation fund for unrest

AP News
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Posted: Sep 20, 2011 12:26 PM
Bahrain's king sets compensation fund for unrest

Bahrain established a special fund Tuesday to pay compensation to civilians and others harmed "physically or morally" by public officials or security forces, in a decree aimed at easing tensions before a highly charged parliamentary election this week.

The decision by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa also comes about six weeks before a report by an independent commission probing allegations of abuse since the Sunni-led Gulf kingdom's majority Shiites began protests for greater rights in February.

The new fund, announced on the official Bahrain News Agency, would apparently cover all Bahrainis _ including security officials and public officials _ who would be considered victimized during the unrest.

It also said money would be set aside for those injured while helping people hurt in the demonstrations _ a gesture to medical teams and emergency crews. More than two dozen doctors and nurses have faced trials on charges that range from anti-state subversion to lesser allegations of backing the protests.

More than 30 people have died in the violence, including two police officers. Shiites account for about 70 percent of Bahrain's 525,000 citizens, but claim they face deep discrimination from the ruling Sunni dynasty.

The report on the new compensation fund said it would follow U.N. guidelines on reparations, and cases would be determined by a "specialized court," but gave no further details on the process or the possible payout amounts.

Security forces are on high alert before a fresh of protests head of Saturday's election. It was called to fill 18 seats in the 40-member parliament after Shiite lawmakers staged mass resignations to protest the harsh crackdowns.

The main Shiite political blocs have called for a boycott of the voting. Other protest factions have urged for a bold escalation in the anti-government actions, including creating massive traffic jams to disrupt voting and trying to reclaim a central square that was a former protest hub.

The area is now ringed by a steel fence and watched around the clock by riot police.

Bahraini authorities have promised a harsh response to any attempts to derail the election. The Ministry of Interior on Monday said protesters could lose their driver's licenses for up to a year if they carry out threats to create traffic tie-ups.