MANAMA, Bahrain — Bahrain’s Shi’ite clerics criticized the Gulf kingdom’s police yesterday for attacking religious processions just days after emergency rule was lifted.
Five clerics said in a statement that the police committed “a flagrant violation of freedom of religious practice’’ against Shi’ite pilgrims Sunday, when they attacked a procession commemorating the death of a revered saint.
Bahrain’s majority Shi’ites complained of discrimination by the nation’s Sunni rulers long before starting a wave of protests earlier this year. Protesters demanded greater political freedoms, more rights, and an elected government in Bahrain, home of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Bahrain imposed martial law in March to quell the protests, which were inspired by uprisings against autocratic rulers around the Middle East. Hundreds of opposition supporters, political figures, and Shi’ite professionals were arrested during the emergency rule that expired last week.
At least 31 people have been killed since the protests began in mid-February.
The head of Bahrain’s public security, Brigadier General Tariq bin Mubarak bin Dayna, defended the police force’s response to Sunday’s processions. He said some pilgrims broke the law by chanting political slogans.