Bahraini woman dies 'during protest'

Rights group says her death occurred due to tear gas fired by police on Friday, as national dialogue falters.

    Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a gathering held by the opposition Wefaq party on Friday [Reuters]

    A Bahraini rights activist has said a woman died during clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters in the Gulf kingdom.

    Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said on Saturday that 47-year-old Zainab Hasan Ahmed al-Jumaa suffocated after inhaling tear gas fired by riot police during a demonstration on Friday near her home in Sitra, the hub of Bahrain's oil industry.

    Her death brings to 33 the number of those who have died since February when Bahrain's Shia majority started protests for greater freedoms in the Sunni-ruled island kingdom.

    Bahrain's interior ministry denied al-Jumaa's death was linked to a police operation and said in a statement posted on the ministry's website late on Friday that the woman died of natural causes.

    Friday protests

    On Friday, tens of thousands of people took part in a gathering of Bahrain's main Shia opposition bloc, which is considering withdrawing from the ongoing national dialogue.

    The Wefaq party rally in the Bilad al-Qadim area of Manama was attended by "around 50,000 people", Khalil al-Marzouk, a resigned member of parliament and head of its delegation at the national dialogue, told the AFP news agency.

    In a speech, Wefaq chief Sheikh Ali Salman reiterated the demand for "radical reform centring on a government elected by the people and a parliament with full legislative powers".

    He said the movement was not calling for the fall of Bahrain, which is ruled by the Sunni Muslim Al-Khalifa dynasty.

    Since the 2 July debut of the national dialogue, which is aimed at forwarding political reforms after Shia-led protests were crushed in a bloody crackdown in March, Wefaq has called for a government led by the parliamentary majority.

    The group won 18 of 40 seats in the most recent parliamentary elections, but its MPs resigned to protest against violence against demonstrators.

    The Wefaq delegation at the national dialogue has said it may withdraw from the talks, and is to announce its decision on Sunday.

    The bloc decided only at the last minute to participate in the dialogue, encouraged by the international community, including the US, whose Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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