16-year-old Hussam Al-Haddad was killed last night during clashes with riot police in Bahrain. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) says that he died after being beaten by security forces. The Bahraini government has labeled him a “terrorist ” and claims that he attacked police with Molotov cocktails.
Opposition party Al-Wefaq also countered the government’s claims, saying that the teenager, who was buried today in a funeral attended by Shia and Sunni Muslims, was the victim of a “barbaric” attack.
The day before the protests, prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to three years in prison for participating in an “illegal demonstration.” He has already been serving a three-month sentence on charges of writing anti-government comments on Twitter. In one post, Rajab had called for Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s prime minister and the longest serving in the world, to step down.
International human rights groups and twenty US politicians have demanded the immediate release of Rajab, president of the BCHR.
Bahrain has been the site of protests against the country’s Sunni Muslim monarchy since February 2011, when mass demonstrations inspired by the Arab Spring protests were held in the capital of Manama. Opposition activists say that at least 45 people have been killed since June 2011, when the government lifted martial law.
While Shia Muslims comprise the majority of Bahrain’s population, the gulf state — a US ally that houses the US’s fifth naval fleet — is ruled by a Sunni dynasty.
The verdict in Rajab’s trial was announced two days after the government said that it would postpone verdicts in the trials of thirteen other dissidents. Among these are political opposition leader, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been jailed for life, and Ebrahim Sharif, leader of a cross-sectarian political party and one of the few Sunnis jailed in the protests.
Al-Khawaja’s activist daughter, Zainab, was among 40 people arrested in early August after participating in a protest to demand political reforms. She had previously been arrested in April for seeking to stage a protest during Bahrain’s Formula One Grand Prix. In May, she was sentenced to one month in jail and fined $530 for insulting a government employee. As her lawyer Mohamed al-Jishi said to Al-Jazeera of her most recent arrest, “I still haven’t managed to find out exactly what the charges pressed against her are.”
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Photo of a funeral in 2011 in Bahrain by Al Jazeera English