Prominent Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab was attacked with sticks, punched and kicked by security officers while participating in a peaceful demonstration in Manama Friday evening.
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“He has a big bruise on his face but he is not in critical condition,” Ala’a Shehabi told Al-Akhbar Lebanese news paper from Bahrain.
Shehabi, another Bahraini activist whose husband Ghazi remains in detention, took part in the demonstration and was close to Rajab when the attack took place. She said peaceful protesters were attacked and dispersed.
Shehabi posted a video on her twitter showing a police officer confronting Rajab at the head of a group of protesters reportedly prior to the attack.
Shehabi said Rajab is being guarded by police in the hospital but does not seem to be under formal arrest.
A tweet sent from the official account of the Bahraini Ministry of Interior said: “After dispersing unauthorized march in Almakharqa in Manama police found man, Nabeel Rajab, lying on the ground & referred him to hospital.”
Shehabi said when she informed Rajab after the attack of the ministry’s claims, he laughed at such claims.
In one of his latest tweets before the incident, Rajab wrote in Arabic: "Heading to Manama, the capital of heroes and the free, and the city of persistence and steadfastness."
Two hours later he tweeted: "With hundreds roaming Manama, standing in front of the homes of the detained, and calling for their freedom."
According to a recently-released statement by the Gulf Center for Human Rights headed by Rajab, the latter has told his lawyer Mohammed Al-Jishi in a phone call following the attack that the policemen gathered around him suddenly and started to beat him.
"He informed the lawyer that while lying on the ground he was beaten all over his body and specially on his back and face and that his face injuries are serious," the statement reported. "He has an injury just below his right eye. He was then taken to Salmanyia hospital which is still controlled by a heavy security presence since last March.
Rajab's son Adam saw his dad in the hospital, carried by police, the statement reported. "He said Nabeel’s face was swollen. When Adam tried to take a picture of his dad he got pushed and his phone was taken from him," it read.
Former Bahraini MP Mattar Mattar from Bahrain’s Al-Wefaq’s Society said in a phone interview that the government continues to use “feeble excuses” about unauthorized demonstrations to crackdown on dissent.
“They are still using the same methods of force but are now targeting protesters more directly with tear gas, which is lethal,” Mattar said.