Thousands protest in Bahrain over opposition leader arrest

Large crowds of Bahrainis have protested west of the country’s capital, Manama, over the arrest of a prominent opposition figure, just hours after another rally ended with clashes with police.

The former deputy speaker of parliament, Khalil Marzooq, was arrested Sept. 17 on charges of"inciting and advocating terrorism." 

The activist’s detention came after he spoke at a rally, saying, “We support peaceful movements, and we transparently state… that we are not part of the violent groups or their actions.”

Anti-government protesters holding anti-government banners participate in a rally called by Bahrain's main opposition group Al-Wefaq in Budaiya, west of Manama, September 27, 2013 (Reuters / Hamad I Mohammed)

On Friday, protesters hit the streets of Manama, waving Bahraini flags and chanting, "Revolution until victory," and, "We will not forget the martyrs."

image by @AlWefaqENThe rally was largely peaceful, but followed another protest in a nearby village that saw clashes between the police and protesters who tried to approach Pearl Square in Manama, considered to be the cradle of Bahrain's revolution.

"Police were the target of a terrorist act of Molotov cocktails being thrown and partly setting on fire a vehicle of law enforcement officers in Shaharkhan village west of Manama," AFP reported the Interior Ministry as saying.

Security forces fired teargas to disperse the demonstrators.

Protests started on Thursday night in Manama and nearby Shiite villages, with people demanding the release of political prisoners.

Marzooq is the secretary-general of Bahrain's main opposition bloc, al-Wefaq. Marzooq was deputy speaker in Bahrain’s 40-member parliament before 18 al-Wefaq MPs walked out in February 2011 to protest violence against demonstrators.

The Gulf state is a predominantly Shiite country and has seen frequent unrest since authorities cracked down hard on the popular uprising against the ruling Sunni monarchy in 2011.

Human Rights Watch has accused the Bahraini government of violence and torture. Last week, they said that Bahrain’s law enforcement agencies had reportedly made a habit of regularly detaining child protesters, who are forced to undergo humiliation and cruel treatment often bordering on torture.

Human rights organizations have also accused the US and UK of turning a blind eye toward rights abuses in the country, despite numerous reports of violent crackdowns on opposition activists. 

Many critics claim that the fact that the Gulf state is one of the hubs for deployment of the US Fifth Fleet may be behind the low-key approach.

At least 80 people have been killed since the Bahrain protests erupted, according to the International Federation for Human Rights

Reuters / Hamad I Mohammed

A Bahraini woman wearing a Guy Fawkes mask used by the Anonymous movement flashes the 'V-sign' for victory during an anti-government protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama, on September 27, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

General Secretary of Bahrain's main opposition party Al-Wefaq Ali Salman (C) holds participates in a rally called by Al-Wefaq in Budaiya, west of Manama, September 27, 2013 (Reuters / Hamad I Mohammed)

A Bahraini girl holds up her national flag as she takes part in an anti-government protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama, on September 27, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

image by @AlWefaqEN