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Bahraini protesters, police clash, fight through tear gas [Video]

February 13, 2012 | 11:41 am

One day before Bahraini protesters plan to mark the one-year anniversary of the beginning of protests against the government, street battles have already been flaring between protesters and police.

The video above, uploaded to YouTube Monday by opposition activists, shows protesters shielding their noses and mouths and hustling away from clouds of tear gas.

Opposition activists are urging protesters to return to the Pearl Roundabout, the heart of the rallies last year. Bahrain, an island state near Saudi Arabia run by a Sunni Muslim monarchy, has faced protesters agitating for greater democracy, saying that Shiite Muslims are systematically discriminated against.

Though the government created an independent commission to investigate allegations of police brutality and other abuses, activists say leaders haven't followed through on many of the commission's recommendations, including dropping charges against protesters that were first brought up in military courts.

Government officials have tried to dissuade people from taking to the streets. In an interview published Monday in Der Spiegel, King Hamed Ibn Isa Khalifa scoffed, "Arab Spring? That's the business of other countries." Bahrain already heeded the call for democratic reform starting a decade ago, he said.

Public security chief Maj. Gen. Tariq Hassan told state media that police would not tolerate civil disorder. The Interior Ministry said "saboteurs" had blocked roads and hurled Molotov cocktails at police on Monday, state media reported.

"There are people who insist on exploiting the freedom and democratic atmosphere of Bahrain to promote irresponsible, violent and illegal behavior," Hassan said.

Human rights activists say Bahrain has given peaceful opponents few other choices than to gather in the streets."The political process is no avenue for them to voice their opposition," said Brian Dooley, director of the Human Rights Defenders Program at the nonprofit Human Rights First.


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles