Opposition businessman dies in Bahrain prison - group

Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:00pm GMT

MANAMA (Reuters) - A Shi'ite businessman and member of Bahrain opposition group Wefaq died in police custody on Tuesday, the group said, and the daughter of an arrested activist said she was on a hunger strike.

There was no immediate reaction by state media to the reported death and officials were not available to comment.

Bahrain's Sunni Muslim rulers quelled weeks of protests led by mostly Shi'ite demonstrators last month by spreading security forces throughout the capital and calling in troops from Sunni-led Gulf Arab states, including oil giant Saudi Arabia.

The government has since arrested hundreds of Shi'ites, replaced editors at an opposition newspaper and fired hundreds of Shi'ite workers who were absent during a strike last month.

Mattar Mattar (Eds: correct), a member of Wefaq, said Kareem Fakhrawi had died in police custody, a week after he failed to return home from a police station where he had tried to complain about his house being demolished by police.

"Either he was sick and didn't receive treatment or was tortured," Mattar said.

Fakhrawi's was the fourth known death in police custody in recent days. Bahrain's government denies there is torture in Bahrain and says all such allegations will be investigated.

Wefaq said on Tuesday three Shi'ite doctors and several staff from the Education Ministry had been arrested on Monday, bringing the total number of detainees to 453.

"After these problems, many are afraid to contact us," said Mattar. "I estimate the real number is not less than 600. That's one in every 1,000 Bahrainis," he said.   Continued...

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