MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahraini police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to scatter protesters who gathered outside the home of a Shi‘ite Muslim opposition leader on Monday, witnesses said, after he was remanded in custody for a further 15 days.
Around 100 protesters angry at the decision had assembled outside his house in the Manama suburb of Bilad al-Qadeem calling for his immediate release, according to a Reuters eyewitness, and clashes with police ensued.
Authorities were not available for comment on the fresh outbreak of sectarian tension in the Sunni Muslim-ruled, Gulf Arab kingdom, a close ally of the United States which bases its Fifth Fleet there as a bulwark against Iran across the Gulf.
Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the al-Wefaq Islamic Society, was arrested on Dec. 28 after leading a protest rally against elections that were held in November and which his party boycotted, prompting U.S. criticism.
Late on Sunday, Salman’s lawyer, Abdulla al-Shamlawi, told Reuters that he had been charged by the public prosecutor with inciting a change of government by force, inciting hatred of a segment of society, inciting others to break the law and publicly insulting the Interior Ministry.
“The secretary general of a political society shall be detained for 15 more days pending investigation,” the official Twitter account of Bahrain’s Public Prosecution said. It did not name Salman.
After a U.S. State Department statement on Thursday criticizing Salman’s detention, saying this would further stoke tensions, Bahraini authorities denounced what they called foreign double standards and interference.
The island kingdom has been gripped by tension since a 2011 uprising by majority Shi‘ite Muslims demanding reforms and a bigger role in running the Sunni-led country.
Authorities quelled that revolt with support from other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council but sporadic unrest has continued. Demonstrations have increasingly given way to bomb attacks on the security forces. At least two people were killed in two separate attacks last month.
Reporting by Farishta Saeed; Writing by Amena Bakr; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Mark Heinrich