Bahrain protester killed by police vehicle

AP News
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Posted: Nov 19, 2011 5:40 AM
Bahrain protester killed by police vehicle

Hundreds of mourners gathered in Bahrain on Saturday for the funeral of a young protester killed by a police vehicle as security forces were dispersing Shiite demonstrators rallying against Sunni rulers near an American naval base.

The violence occurred just days before an international panel is due to release a highly anticipated report on the unrest that has killed more than 30 people since February.

Bahrain has seen months of anti-government protests and punishing crackdowns in the tiny but strategically important Gulf country, the home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, that began when the country's Shiite majority started campaigning for greater rights and freedoms.

Hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders and Shiite professionals like lawyers, doctors and nurses have been detained and tried on anti-state crimes in a special security court since the beginning of protests ignited by uprisings sweeping the Arab world.

Security forces have clashed with protesters almost daily since authorities launched a crackdown on dissent in March.

The protester's uncle told The Associated Press his 16-year-old nephew, Ali Youssef Bagdar, died after a police vehicle ran him over during a demonstration early Saturday in the Juffair area of the capital Manama. The uncle, Ibrahim Ali Bagdar, said he rushed to the area with the boy's father, but police cordoned the site off and would not let anybody approach.

"Our boy was dead and they left him laying on the street for hours," the uncle said before his nephew's funeral in Bahrain's oil hub of Sitra on Saturday.

A report by the state-run Bahrain News Agency said a police vehicle skidded into a group of "rioters... committing acts of sabotage" due to an oil spill on the road, killing the boy. The BNA report said authorities are investigating the incident that occurred just before 1:00 a.m. Saturday.

The report by The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which has been probing alleged abuses during the unrest, is due out on Wednesday.

The five-member panel is headed by Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-born professor of international criminal law and a former member of U.N. human rights panels. It was set up in July with the consent of Bahrain's rulers.

Over the past months, the panel received more than 8,000 complaints, testimonies and documents. Its members have interviewed more than 5,000 witnesses and alleged victims of the unrest, including detainees, police personnel, doctors and journalists.

Bahrain imposed martial law in March and invited into the country 1,500 troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors who accuse the regional Shiite power, Iran of aiding the unrest.