Anti-riot police in Bahrain used buckshot, sound grenades and tear gas to disperse hundreds of Shia protesters trying to march on an iconic square in capital Manama, witnesses said.
Demonstrators were trying to reach the Pearl Roundabout on Saturday after the funeral of a detainee who died in hospital in Manama a day earlier.
The witnesses said several protesters were injured when the security forces intervened, although they were not able to give any specific number.
The Pearl Roundabout was the center of Bahrain’s uprising against the ruling al-Khalifa family. Bahraini Shia continue to demonstrate in villages outside the capital and frequently clash with police. The roundabout has since been removed and destroyed.
In August, Bahrain’s King Hamad decreed harder penalties for "terror acts." These include a minimum 10-year jail term for an attempted bombing. If such attacks cause casualties, the sentence can be life imprisonment or the death penalty.
|Yousif al-Nashmi's coffin is carried on top of a car during his funeral in Sanabis, west of Manama [Reuters]
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) believes that the detainee was Yousif al-Nashmi. It said he died due to the authorities "practice of arbitrary arrest, torture and deprivation of adequate medical treatment."
Al-Nashmi’s lawyer, Zainab Abdulaziz, said that officials did not properly care for him and said that he was in a coma when he was finally hospitalised on September 23. She said that authorities had waited too long to provide medical treatment and ignored his deteriorating health, claims which Bahraini officials have denied.
Bahrain's public prosecutor's office said early on Saturday that al-Nashmi died of HIV-linked problems and had been scheduled to be released. "The deceased was admitted to the hospital on September 23 in critical condition and was diagnosed with AIDS", said Hassan Al Bouallay, Bahrain's North Governorate Persecutor.
BCHR's acting president Maryam Alkhawaja reacted to the clash by tweeting, "The serious injury today is the result of impunity, there are videos in which officers tell police to aim for protesters' heads."
Al-Nashmi’s case will likely bring calls for greater scrutiny on prison conditions in the Gulf nation.
Bahrain is home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet and has been experiencing unrest since early 2011.