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Protesters Remember Martyrs in Bahrain

December 17, 2002

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ Demonstrators marched in Bahrain’s capital on Tuesday to mark the date when two Shiite Muslims became the first fatalities during political upheaval that shook the tiny Gulf kingdom in the mid-1990s.

The two-hour demonstration coincided with the second day of celebrations of Bahrain’s national day. Bahrain became independent from Britain on Dec. 16, 1971.

The protesters also denounced Col. Adel Jassim Flaifil, a former aide to Ian Henderson, the Briton who headed Bahrain’s intelligence service from the 1960s to 1998. The protesters said he should be tried and executed.

``Today is a day of mourning and remembering the martyrs and realizing the suffering and the pain of the people of Bahrain,″ Shiite cleric Syed Ali Ahmed al-Jidhafsi said.

He marched with the crowd that included women covered head-to-toe in black chador to mark the eighth anniversary of the deaths of Hani al-Wasti, 25, and Hani Khamees, 26.

The men were the first of more than 40 people killed in the political upheaval among the Shiites, a slight majority of the 400,000 Bahrainis who are ruled by the Al Khalifa family of the Sunni branch of Islam.

During the unrest, Shiite opposition leaders often accused Bahrain’s security services of using unnecessary force, illegal detention and torture against dissidents.

The turbulence subsided when King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa took the throne in 1999 and began steering the country toward a constitutional monarchy. He pardoned more than 1,000 political prisoners and allowed exiles to return.

Bahrain recently held its first parliamentary elections since independence with secular candidates winning a slight majority over Islamists.

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