The demonstrators, who included dozens of women, chanted slogans calling for the resignation of national security agency chief Shaikh Abd al-Aziz Atiyatulla al-Khalifa.

"Who killed my father under torture?" and "We demand compensation for all victims of state security law in Bahrain," read some of the banners held by the protesters.

They also demanded the scrapping of a law protecting those accused of torture.

Demanding justice

The protesters rallied outside the interior ministry "because those who practised torture in the past have not only remained in their jobs, they have been promoted", said the head of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture, which organised the demonstration.

"The man who headed the security committee in the 1990s when it practised all forms of torture is now head of the national security agency," said a protester.

The committee has organised several protests since it was set up in 2002 but this was the first held outside the interior ministry.

The protesters distributed a statement demanding compensation for victims of torture, cancellation of a law which "shields executioners and killers", and the prosecution of those accused of torture.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa issued a decree in October 2002 stipulating that courts can no longer hear cases brought against individuals accused of crimes committed before a general amnesty declared in February 2001 as part of national reconciliation and political reform.