SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at dozens of anti-government protesters who defied a ban on unauthorised demonstrations and marched in the centre of Bahraini capital Manama on Friday. Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, has been in political turmoil since a protest movement dominated by majority Shi'ite Muslims erupted in February 2011 during a wave of revolts against authoritarian governments across the Arab world.
The Sunni Muslim ruling Al Khalifa family put down the uprising with martial law, troops from Saudi Arabia and police from the United Arab Emirates, but unrest has resumed, with almost daily clashes between Shi'ites and police. Armoured vehicles and riot police closed off some of the main roads leading into the city but protesters still made it to Friday's march, which had been called by Bahrain's main opposition bloc Al Wefaq and tweeted as "freedom for prisoners of conscience".
Last week, a march attended by tens of thousands of demonstrators that had also been organised by Al Wefaq together with other opposition groups and which the authorities had approved passed without incident. On Tuesday, a Bahraini civilian court upheld jail sentences of between five and 25 years against leaders of last year's pro-democracy uprising, a decision that could fuel more unrest in the small Gulf Arab state. Al Wefaq condemned the ruling.
Opposition parties led by Al Wefaq are demanding full powers for the elected parliament to legislate and form governments. Many Shi'ites complain of being politically and economically marginalised, which the government denies.
Where as BBC reported : Police fired tear gas and blocked roads in an effort to put down the protest.Protesters from Bahrain's Shia Muslim majority have been demanding reforms from the ruling Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family since last year.Last week thousands of people took part in an approved protest, without incident.
Friday's protests were the latest attempt by Shia-led anti-government activists to revive an uprising which started in February 2011 and has so far killed 19 people.Authorised protests in Bahrain, a small Gulf island state which hosts the fifth fleet of the US navy, have been held largely on the outskirts of the capital.The latest demonstration was held in central Manama.Police tried to block some roads using armoured vehicles to prevent demonstrators from reaching the march, Reuters reported.
The Bahraini government has tried to mollify protesters with some reforms and last year appointed a leading lawyer to assess the powerful crackdown on protesters last year. The al-Khalifa family called in help from Saudi Arabia's military and the United Arab Emirates' police force to help quell demonstrations last year.
Earlier this week a court in Manama upheld prison sentences of between five and 25 years handed to some leading activists.