August 30, 2014 / 8:24 PM / 3 years ago

Bahrain detains Shi'ite rights activist on arrival at airport

MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahraini authorities detained prominent human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja on Saturday on her arrival at the Gulf state’s airport, her mother told Reuters.

Maryam is the daughter of Shi‘ite Muslim activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who has been detained in the Sunni monarchy since 2011 and is on hunger strike.

“Maryam told me that she will be transferred to the court tomorrow,” her mother, Khadija al-Musawi, told Reuters, adding that her daughter, who holds dual Bahraini and Danish citizenship, was coming back from Denmark.

Charges against al-Khawaja include insulting Bahrain’s king, and assaulting a policewoman at the airport, her mother said.

Bahraini authorities were not immediately available to comment.

Bahrain, a base for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since protests led by Shi‘ite Muslims erupted in 2011 after similar unrest in Egypt and Tunisia.

Shi‘ites, who make up the majority of Bahrain’s population, complain of political and economic marginalization, an accusation the government denies. Talks between the government and opposition have failed defuse the political tensions.

In July, Bahrain declared U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Tom Malinowski, persona non grata after he met opposition figures in the kingdom.

Under criticism from human rights groups, the government invited an independent inquiry to examine its handling of the trouble in 2011. Its report said the authorities had used widespread and excessive force, including torture to extract confessions.

The Bahraini government says it has taken steps to address the problems by dismissing those responsible and introducing cameras at police stations.

Reporting by Farishta Saeed; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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