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Sunday
Apr222012

Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Death, A Hunger Striker, Injuries, Detentions...and a Grand Prix

Bahraini economist and activist Ala'a Shehabi, arrested this afternoon (see 1609 GMT), speaking on Friday about protest, politics, and rights

See also Saudi Arabia Opinion: "The Era of Religious Guardianship is Over"
Bahrain Video: "Free Bird" --- A Daughter's Animated Conversation with Hunger Striker Abdulhadi Alkhawaja
Syria Wired: The Latest from Social Media and EA's Readers
Saturday's Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Is Hunger Striker Alkhawaja Near Death?


2359 GMT: We close todays coverage with this picture of Dr Ala'a Shehabi, taken shortly after her release:

2330 GMT: Dr Ala'a Shehabi, Al A'ali and the Channel 4 News team, arrested earlier in Bahrain, have all been freed.

Jonathan Miller tweeted his release first:

Shortly after, Maryam AlKhawaja confirmed Ala'a and Ali's release, via fellow BCHR activist Said Yousif:

Miller also added this troubling coda:

2113 GMT: The website of the Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) is off-line. Hacktivists have claimed the take-down "for sponsorship of F1 [Formula 1] in Bahrain and Internet censorship".

2110 GMT: Eight women who were detained during their protest at the Formula 1 circuit (see 1503 and 1654 GMT) have been released.

2050 GMT: Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa has used Twitter to defend the arrest of a journalist and crew from Britain's Channel 4 (see 2005 and 2045 GMT):

Al Khalifa has also defended the treatment of the British team's Bahraini driver, who was seized and whose whereabouts are unknown:

2045 GMT: Jonathan Miller of Britain's Channel 4 speaks to the London studio as he is being arrested in Bahrain:

2005 GMT: Amy Lawson, the head of communications for Channel 4 News in the UK confirms that Jonathan Miller and his team have been arrested in Bahrain. The driver of the vehicle they were in was beaten. Amy tweets:

The Channel 4 team was with activists Ala'a Shehabi and Ali Al A'ali, who were also detained (see 1609 GMT).

An EA source says that Shehabi's husband, who was detained earlier in the protests, has not been allowed to see her. Her lawyer has also not been given access, although he is now in the police station and is trying to ascertain the charges against her and Al A'ali.

1705 GMT: Bahrain's opposition society Al Wefaq reports:

It is unclear if these were the foreign journalists with activists Ala'a Shehabi and Ali Al A'ali when they were detained (see 1609 GMT).

1654 GMT: A Bahraini activist send the names of the eight women arrested this afternoon for protesting at the site of the Formula 1 Grand Prix:

1- Ramleh Mula Abbas from Nabih Saleh
2- Zainab Laith from Dar Kulaib
3- Zainab Almuglak from Sihla
4- Eman Alhabishi from A’Ali
5- Masoma Alsayed from Bilad Alqadeem
6- Mona Ali from Sitra
7- Zahra Abdulanabi from Sitra
8- Sara Hasan from Sitra

1629 GMT: Mohammed Hasan, a fixer for foreign journalists, has been released from detention for the second time in two days, and he has a message for the regime:

1609 GMT: An EA source from Bahrain reports that Dr Ala'a Shehabi, economist and activist, was arrested about 30 minutes ago. Police chased the car in which she was travelling and forced it to park before policewomen detained.

Shehabi and fellow activist Ali Al A'ali were with several foreign journalists when they were intercepted.

Shehabi's last tweet, apparently cut off by the detention:

Ali Al A'ali tweeted simply as he was taken:

On 12 April, Ala'a Shehabi had written for Foreign Policy, "Hunger, Heroism, and Hope in Bahrain", about the hunger strike of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja.

1521 GMT: The Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria reports that 19 people have been killed by security forces, with six dead in Idlib Province, five in the Damascus suburbs, six in Homs Province, and two in Daraa Province.

A mass demonstration in Jabal al-Zawiyah in Idlib Province:

1519 GMT: Smoke and armoured personnel carriers in Abu Saiba in Bahrain:

1511 GMT: While drama around detentions and clashes after the Bahrain Grand Prix appears to be escalating, Reuters reports that the event itself was a disappointment for organisers, at least from the standpoint of attendance:

The TV cameras on the front of the cars beamed to the world the unmistakable images of empty bleachers as the racers roared past the grandstands.

With organizers doing what they could to attract crowds, even super-elite status had lost some of its cachet. Regulars at the normally overflowing Paddock Club, reserved for big-ticket corporate sponsors and their guests, said attendance had fallen through the floor.

No-longer-so-coveted Paddock Club passes were even falling into the hands of ordinary mortals --- unaware, for example, that access includes free gourmet meals.

"You can see people wandering around with Paddock Club passes and eating at the fast food stalls. They clearly don't know what to do with them," said the foreigner at the stalls.

1506 GMT: It appears serious clashes are taking place in Bilad Qadeem in Bahrain. There is a report that "two Western journalists" have been caught up in tear gas and one has passed out.

Photojournalist Mazen Mahdi tweets:

1503 GMT: Footage of one of the protesting women inside the Grand Prix circuit (see 1420 GMT) being detained:

1427 GMT: Prominent Bahraini activist Maryam Alkhawaja comments on why her sister and fellow human rights advocate Zainab would refuse to see prosecutors after her arrest last night: "I can guess because 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."

1420 GMT: Has there been a protest inside the Bahrain International Circuit after the Grand Prix? Prominent activist Maryam Alkhawaja reported just after 1400 GMT:

And this picture has been posted:

1409 GMT: Economist and activist Ala'a Shehabi reports from Bahrain:

Freeman is the Chief Foreign Correspondent for the London newspaper --- he had written last night, "Riot Squads, Teargas and Petrol Bombs as Protesters Claim Police Beat Shia Activist to Death". Mohammad Hasan, a "fixer" for foreign media seeking coverage of stories in Bahrain, was beaten and detained yesterday before he was released late last night.

1354 GMT: The Grand Prix has finished in Bahrain, and we now watch for developments outside the circuit. The February 14 Coalition has announced an intention to move towards Pearl Roundabout, the symbolic centre of the February 2011 protests --- subsequently overrun, its monument demolished by the regime --- and there is a report of a clash in Jidhafs as police try to prevent a march.

1344 GMT: Daily News Egypt, "the only independent English-language printed daily in the country" and a prominent outlet during and after the rising against the Mubarak regime, is closing this weekend.

The staff of the newspaper, which was launched in 2004, have published a farewell note expressing their sorrow, their gratitude to contributors and "loyal readers", and their concern that the website may not be maintained as an archive.

1241 GMT: A member of the Free Syrian Army offers security to an UN observer, holding his hand, in Rastan in Homs Province today:

1201 GMT: The 24 drivers are on the warm-up lap before the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Journalist Ian Parkes tweeted an hour ago:

1146 GMT: Continuing fighting between the Libyan army and Toubou tribesmen in the desert town of Kufra has killed 12 people and wounded 35 since Friday, according to Toubou tribal leader Issa Abdelmajid Mansur.

Mansur claimed that the army was "firing at us with rocket-propelled grenades, Grad rockets and anti-aircraft guns".

The conflict was reportedly by Toubou anger over the death of a tribesman on Thursday, which they blamed on the military.

Another tribal leader, Hussein Sake, said, "A dozen houses have been burned down." A nurse confirmed the razing of the houses and said she had seen four people who had been killed and 16 wounded.

Hussein Sake said Toubou areas have no medical clinics and no food shops were open because of the violence.

1052 GMT: Yemen's deposed President Saleh, addressing university graduates, says uprisings in Arab countries have brought "destruction", claiming that the Yemeni protests cost billions of dollars in lost revenues.

Saleh also implicitly criticized his successor Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, decrying the "biased" implementation of the transfer of power and saying it could ignite a new crisis.

Hadi has recently dismissed some of Saleh's allies and relatives from the Government and the military.

1037 GMT: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims three people have been killed by regime fire today in suburbs east of Damascus, two in Douma and one in Htaita.

Claimed footage of Syrian regime snipers firing on a march, which included United Nations observers, in Homs on Saturday:

A march in Kafarowed in Idlib Province today:

1034 GMT: Said Yousif Almuhafda of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has updated on the status of fellow activist Zainab Alkhawaja:

0940 GMT: The wife of detained activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, on Day 74 of his hunger strike, has tweeted, "The Danish ambassador visited AlKhawaja to convince him with taking IV saline but he refused."

0922 GMT: An interesting update from activist Sami:

0915 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, rejecting charges that he is trying to inflame sectarian divisions in Iraq thru criticism of its government, has accused Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki of trying to gain "prestige" in an escalating war of words.

Amid a constitutional crisis in Baghdad, Erdogan has said that al-Maliki is "self-centred" and inciting tensions between Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds.

Al-Maliki responded that Turkey is a "hostile state" and Erdogan's remarks "represent another return to flagrant interference in Iraqi internal affairs".

0910 GMT: Syrian activists, meeting four United Nations observers, plead with them to stay in Homs:

0855 GMT: Journalist Ian Parkes sends a message from the Bahrain Grand Prix:

0745 GMT: Al Jazeera English's Anita McNaught reports that, despite claims of a "cease-fire", fighting continues in Idlib Province in northwest Syria:

The Local Coordination Committees activist network claims explosions in the Damascus suburb of Douma this morning as troops stormed neighbourhoods.

Douma-based activist Mohammed Saeed claimed two people were killed as tanks shelled parts of the suburb.

0700 GMT: Bahrain's Ministry of Interior claims all is well with detained Abdulhadi Alkhawaja on Day 74 of his hunger strike:

The good news continues from the Bahrain News Agency:

Bahrain has attracted much media attention with the hosting of the Gulf Air Bahrain 2012 Formula One Grand Prix, said the Chief Operating Officer of the Elite Group, Sarosh Ibara.

The event has given a hugely positive impact of Bahrain to the international community, he said. “There are media outfits staying with the Elite Group and they are pleasantly surprised at the ground realities when compared with the picture pained earlier,” he said.

The overall situation on the ground, the infrastructure in place for the races, the outlook of the country are all conveying a very positive story to the international community, said Ibara.

0610 GMT: While Syria was overtaken by Bahrain in the news on Saturday, with the reported halt to shelling of the third-largest city Homs, it was far from a "new normal" of a cease-fire. Activists reported 40 people were slain, including 13 in Aleppo, 15 in Daraa --- including an entire family trying to flee to Jordan --- six in Homs, and five in the Damascus suburbs.

0550 GMT: Later today 24 drivers will take the track in the Bahrain Grand Prix, the fourth round of the 2012 Formula 1 Championship. It remains to be seen, however, whether the chequered flag will seize the headlines from events beyond the circuit.

Saturday began with the news of the death of protester Salah Habib Abbas, continued with the serious injury of 16-year-old Noor Rabie, shot in the head, and the arrest of activist Zainab Alkhawaja, and culminated with reports of dozens wounded --- sometimes by police shotguns --- and arrested.

Meanwhile, detained human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja enters Day 74 of a hunger strike in a military hospital. Alkhawaja called his family on Friday to prepare for death, refusing to take water and seeking preparation of a will, but on Saturday his lawyer said that he could not get any news of Alkhawaja, let alone see him.

This morning the February 14 Coalition has announced, without giving details that "there will be a lot of surprises". Youth have started blocking roads and burning tyres to cover Bahrain's sky with black smoke.

Young protesters burning tyres in Nuwaidrat:

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