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Rights Group Demands Investigation Into Custodial Death Of Bahrain Detainee

Amnesty International, a prominent London-based rights group, on Wednesday urged Bahraini authorities to immediately investigate the custodial death of a 19-year-old boy who was shot in the head by security forces.

"Bahrain's authorities must come clean and open a full, independent investigation to establish the truth about the death of Fadel Abbas. Those responsible for his death must be held to account," Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program, was quoted as saying in a statement.

"The conflicting information that has emerged over the version of events that led to his death makes such an investigation even more urgent," Boumedouha added.

According to Amnesty, Fadel Abbas was wounded when security forces tried to arrest him and others as they went to visit a recently released prisoner in the village of Markh.

The rights group also quoted the Bahraini Interior Ministry as saying in a statement on January 26 that Fadel Abbas had died of his wounds after he was shot on January 8 when he "purposefully" drove a car into members of the security forces as he attempted to escape arrest for smuggling arms and explosives.

The Ministry stressed in the statement that its forces had acted in self-defense.

But human rights activists, who published pictures of the body of Fadel Abbas, said he sustained bullet injuries in the head and wounds to the leg during a violent altercation with security forces. Besides, the family was also not told he had been arrested upon inquiry with the police after he went missing.

The killing of Fadel Abbas has triggered protests in the village of Diraz, west of the capital Manama, where his funeral was held. Police fired tear gas and gunshots as they clashed with protesters after the funeral.

"The latest protests show that there remains a deep lack of trust in information issued by the authorities. Such mistrust is largely due to the authorities' unwillingness and abject failure so far to adequately address abuses by its security forces and provide justice for those who have died," said Boumedouha.

Since anti-government protests erupted in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, a number of low ranking police officers have been tried over the deadly crackdown on protesters. However, they have either been acquitted or given sentences that do not match the seriousness of their alleged offenses.

Amnesty noted that Bahraini authorities are yet to implement a number of key recommendations made in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, including carrying out investigations into killings by the security force during the uprising.

Demonstrations calling for human rights and political reform have continued to take place regularly outside of Manama. The opposition and the Shiite majority in the tiny island nation have long been complaining about discrimination. They are demanding greater political rights and want the Sunni monarchy to hand over most of its powers to an elected Parliament.

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