Middle East

Leading Bahrain activist Zainab al-Khawaja detained

Zainab al-Khawaja at a protest in Manama (18 April 2012)
Image caption This is not the first time that Zainab al-Khawaja has been arrested at a protest in Bahrain

A prominent pro-democracy activist in Bahrain has been detained for seven days after being arrested for allegedly insulting police, rights groups say.

Zainab al-Khawaja was held on Saturday night after sitting in a road leading to the Bahrain International Circuit, a day before the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

She was demanding the cancellation of the race, the end of the crackdown on dissent, and the release of her father.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has been on a hunger strike in prison for 76 days.

Activists said Zainab al-Khawaja was arrested while sitting peacefully in the middle of a main road in protest at the detention of her father, and that she had been charged with disrupting traffic and insulting an officer.

Her sister, Maryam, said: "I can guess it's because nobody really believes in the legal system. Zainab's mentality is you can only bring about the fall of the regime when you stop treating it as a government."

On Tuesday morning, both the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said Ms Khawaja had been remanded in custody for another seven days pending an investigation.

'Toying with life'

Amnesty International said on Monday that the authorities were "toying with the life" of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, himself a leading human rights and opposition activist, after Bahrain's highest court postponed an appeal against his life sentence until 30 April.

The Court of Cassation did not give any reason for the second postponement since it started considering Mr Khawaja's case on 2 April.

He told his family on Sunday night that he was happy with his decision to remain on hunger strike and that if it killed him he would "at least be free".

"The Grand Prix has come and gone but for the people of Bahrain the media spotlight has moved on while Bahrain's authorities have yet to turn the corner on the human rights situation in the country," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, Hasiba Hadj Sahraoui.