DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain accused a prominent activist on Monday of fabricating images of a corpse on the Internet and summoned him for questioning in an ongoing crackdown following pro-democracy protests the state put down by force.
Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said the photos of one of two men who died at a detention center on Saturday showed he had been tortured. But the official Bahrain News Agency said the pictures were doctored.
“The deputy adviser for legal affairs at the interior ministry announced that Nabeel Rajab published false images on social media site Twitter of Ahmed Isa Sager,” BNA said.
Opposition groups have said they suspect both prisoners died from torture in detention. Bahrain denies any torture but says all accusations will be investigated.
“The adviser said that the images published were different to those taken of the deceased with the knowledge of the coroner after death,” BNA said, adding Rajab’s case would be transferred to military prosecutors.
It did not say how the pictures, the links to which Rajab posted on Twitter, were different or the significance of the differences.
Rajab, who has not been questioned yet, said on Twitter the summons was aimed at hurting his credibility.
“The pictures are not fabricated,” he said. “It is the government that wasn’t showing or was hiding the marks on the body where it looks like it was tortured.”
Bahrain saw the worst sectarian clashes since the 1990s last month after mostly Shi‘ite protesters, emboldened by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, took to the streets urging democratic reform. More radical groups called for the overthrow of the monarchy.
Weeks of protests prompted the Sunni rulers to announce martial law and invite troops from Sunni-ruled neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Since then the U.S.-allied Bahrain government has launched a crackdown against opposition activists, journalists and Shi‘ite villagers and accused Iran of fomenting the unrest.
U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states are worried about the influence of non-Arab Shi‘ite power Iran in the Gulf region.
Majority Shi‘ites say they are discriminated against in social services and job postings and argue that questioning their allegiance to Bahrain is evidence of their second-class status in the island state. The government denies this.
On Monday, the minister of municipal affairs confirmed his ministry had recorded and documented all protests and sit-ins since they began in February.
“This will make it easier for the committees formed to investigate events and the new information will be exposed in coming days,” Juma‘a al-Kaabi said, according to BNA.
Leading Shi‘ite opposition party Wefaq says hundreds of people have been arrested and dozens have gone missing since the crackdown on protests on March 16.
Masked security forces man checkpoints across capital Manama, which Wefaq says are now feared by Shi‘ites because they believe that is where most people have been abducted.
Since the crackdown, at least 20 people have been killed, including four policemen, and hundreds of workers have been sacked.
Writing by Andrew Hammond and Erika Solomon; Editing by Nick Macfie