Bahrain authorities detain prominent activist and her one year old son

Published March 15th, 2016 - 05:00 GMT
Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja. (AFP/File)
Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja. (AFP/File)

Bahraini police forces have raided the house of a prominent female activist, detaining her and her 1-year-old son.

Family members said Zainab al-Khawaja and her son Abdulhadi were arrested in the mother's apartment in the capital city of Manama Monday afternoon.

Known for their activism during a campaign for human rights and political freedom in Bahrain, members of the Khawaja family have been repeatedly jailed since an uprising began in the tiny Persian Gulf nation some five years ago.

Zainab, a vocal member of the family who spent years abroad briefing the media and rights groups about the suppression of dissent in Bahrain, faces several years in prison over several counts of charges.

Her sister, Maryam, said Zainab and her toddler were taken to a local police station. Their father is already serving a long sentence handed down to him over his comments on social media.

The arrest of Zainab coincides with the fifth anniversary of uprising in Bahrain, where people have been launching protests across the nation to demand more of a say in the political system.

The uprising, however, has been met with a heavy-handed crackdown, with security forces killing more than a hundred and jailing hundreds more, including senior opposition leaders. Manama has also enjoyed the support of Saudi and Emirati troops in quelling the protests.

Rights campaigners have strongly criticized Bahrain for its harsh treatment of dissent in the country.

The United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein said last week that repeated cases of arrests in Bahrain show that the government is determined to muzzle rights campaigners. He called on the government and courts in Bahrain to stop handing down sentences that strip dissidents of their nationality, saying Manama is in need of "deep and fundamental reforms."

Rights groups have warned in recent weeks that the government is stepping up its crackdown on dissent. The Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, in a report on Saturday, said the ruling Al Khalifah regime has resorted to repressive measures, including torture, against political dissidents.

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