DUBAI — Bahraini detainees and activists convicted for taking part in anti-government demonstrations last year will begin a hunger strike Sunday protesting a new crackdown on demonstrators, a rights group said.
The strike was announced as the Gulf kingdom's interior minister called for punishment against those "attacking policemen" to be toughened to 15 years in prison.
"This evening, they will have their last meal" before going on hunger strike, the head of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mohammed al-Maskati told AFP.
BYSHR said 14 prominent human rights activists and opposition leaders were to begin the hunger strike "in solidarity with pro-democracy protests and in protest against the brutal crackdown."
Maskati said that detainees held in police stations and the Dry Docks detention centre would also join the strike as well as BYSHR activists not presently behind bars.
The 14 leading figures in jail include several opposition leaders who were convicted last year of plotting to overthrow the regime of the Sunni Al-Khalifa ruling family after security forces quelled a month-long protest movement demanding democratic changes.
But clashes between members of the Shiite majority and police have intensified recently as the first anniversary of protests that began on February 14 last year approaches.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa said Sunday that recent clashes saw an "increase in violence and attacks on security personnel," the BNA state news agency reported.
He urged parliament to legislate to punish the "assailants and the instigators" of attacks that target security forces with jail sentences lasting up to 15 years.
"My responsibility is to call for the strengthening of laws protecting police as there are no deterrent laws so far," he said.
The interior ministry said 41 officers were injured in "orchestrated attacks on police" on Tuesday in clashes with protesters in Shiite villages, while the opposition said one protester was killed and several others wounded.
Last year's crackdown led to the deaths of 35 people, including five security personnel and five detainees who were tortured to death, a commission appointed by King Hamad found.
The commission accused police of using excessive force and torture.
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