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BAHRAIN: Security forces continue wide, deep crackdown on dissent

April 17, 2011 | 11:19 am

N0040121298045519896A In the latest developments in Bahrain's ongoing crackdown on the country's political opposition and human-rights activists, more than two dozen uniformed and plainclothes security officers stormed the home of prominent defense lawyer Mohammed Tajer on Friday night and detained him, said watchdog group Human Rights Watch in a statement.

The raid of Tajer's home took place around 11 p.m. Friday when security officers surrounded and then barged into his home, confiscating laptops and cellphones, among other things, before taking Tajer away. The raid is among the latest occurrences in the aftermath of the violent government crackdown against the anti-government protest movement that shook the country to the core earlier this year (pictured, clashes in February in the capital of Manama).

The lawyer has at several times defended opposition figures and rights activists detained in security raids, and Human Rights Watch says he is the first defense lawyer to be detained in the Arabian Peninsula monarchy in more than 10 years.

Tajer's detainment comes two days after authorities took Sadeq Abdulla, a vascular surgeon working at Salmaniya Medical Complex, into custody, according to Human Rights Watch.  Sources told the organization that Abdulla had been summoned to the Interior Ministry on April 14 and that he never emerged from the meeting. Apparently, no reason has been given for his arrest. Abdulla's family members believe he is currently being held at the local police station.

Abdullah is one of nearly 20 Bahraini doctors who have been arrested or gone missing since the government crackdown began. Human Rights Watch claims that at least eight doctors have been arrested in the last week alone. Some of the detained medical workers arrested since March 17 have reportedly been released.

The U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights has published what it says is a partial list of recently detained and missing medical workers in Bahrain.

Hundreds of demonstrators, political figures, human-rights activists and Shiite professionals including doctors have been arrested in security sweeps since the Bahraini authorities crushed the Shiite-led protest movement in mid-March. According to a list compiled by the Bahraini opposition political group Wefaq National Islamic Society, 499 people are currently in government custody in Bahrain.

Media reports say none of the detained has been charged with a crime, and four opposition activists have reportedly died while in government custody in Bahrain in the recent past. In total, at least 30 people reportedly have died since mid-February when the protest movement sprang up in Bahrain.

Earlier this week, media reports said the daughter of a prominent Bahraini rights activist who was picked up in a night raid on her home a week ago had started a hunger strike for his release.

Meanwhile, the state-run Bahraini news agency reported Sunday that more than 100 civil servants in the country had been fired from their jobs for participating in anti-government protests and that they would be prosecuted for partaking in the demonstrations.

Bahrain imposed martial law in the country March 15.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: Bahraini anti-government demonstrators run during clashes in the country's capital, Manama, in February 2011. Credit: Associated Press

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