Jailed Bahrain opposition figures end hunger strike
DUBAI - Jailed Bahraini activists have ended a hunger strike after eight days of refusing to eat in protest at a new crackdown on demonstrations, a rights activist said on Wednesday.
"The strike was ended two days ago... It lasted eight days," the head of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mohammed al-Maskati said.
Top interior ministry official, Major General Ibrahim al-Ghaith, said on February 1 that some 100 jailed activists were still on strike out of 180 the day before.
Maskati said the inmates' families only discovered that the strike had been called off on Tuesday, when prisoners were allowed to telephone their relatives.
Leading opposition figures serving sentences ranging between two years and life in prison after being convicted of plotting to overthrow the Gulf kingdom's Sunni regime began their hunger strike on the night of January 29.
They were joined by inmates and detainees held on charges related to a month-long protest that was crushed in mid-March.
The crackdown led to the deaths of 35 people, including five security personnel and five detainees who were tortured to death, an independent commission of inquiry appointed by King Hamad found.
Tensions have run high in the Gulf kingdom as the opposition and activists prepare to commemorate the first anniversary of their uprising on February 14.
Bahraini activists have announced plans to march to Manama's former Pearl Square, the focal point of the protest, which was razed after a deadly crackdown.
Maskati complained that security forces were conducting dawn raids on Shiite villages and arresting people in what appeared to be a pre-emptive measure "to prevent any attempt to return" to Pearl Square.
"Squads conduct raids at dawn. They carry lists of wanted people," he said, claiming that more than 100 Bahrainis have been arrested since the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile, a week-long rally called for by the Shiite-led opposition will be concluded on Wednesday instead of Saturday, according to the main Shiite opposition formation Al-Wefaq.
Authorities said the assembly was authorised for two days only. But the interior ministry on Sunday said the gatherings were "legal" until Wednesday.