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Hundreds attack inquiry commission's offices--sparked by reports of commission's exculpating the govt.

--Hundreds Attack Inquiry Commission's Offices

--Sparked by Reports of Commission's Exculpating the Govt.

Hundreds of members of the Bahraini opposition have attacked the international commission investigating the recent unrest in the Gulf kingdom, causing the commission to close its office, reported the pan-Arab daily ASHARQ AL AWSAT on Wednesday. The attack on the commission's offices in Manama was sparked by press reports of comments made by the commission's head, Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian professor of international criminal law. Bassiouni had been quoted as saying that the commission had not found any evidence of human rights violations in its investigation into the government's handling of the protests that took place in February and March. More than 30 people died in the uprising, which came to an end when Saudi Arabia sent 1,000 troops into its fellow Sunni kingdom to restore order.

The reports of Bassiouni's remarks provoked a strong reaction from those - mostly from the country's Shiite majority - who had presented complaints to the commission, and drove hundreds "to gather at the commission's offices and to attack 'verbally and physically' its members," reported the Saudi-owned ASHARQ AL AWSAT.

Activists had urged hundreds of Bahrainis fighting to get their jobs back after they were sacked during martial law to gather at the commission headquarters. An activist group, called "Return To Work Is My Right," said Tuesday it would investigate the incident but defended the decision to congregate at the offices, saying the commission was their last hope after the government had ignored them, Reuters reported.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry issued a statement on Monday announcing that its offices would be closing with immediate effect "due to the fact that today, hundreds of people forced their way into our office, having been angered over what they believed to be the Commission Chair's 'conclusions' on the investigation." "After attempting to accommodate the crowd by offering to take down their information in order to schedule appointments, some in the crowd became restless and verbally and physically threatened the staff. Individuals yelled insults, posted threatening messages on the office walls, sent threats via text and email, and even physically shoved and spat at a member of staff," said the commission's statement, posted on its website.

The commission went on to emphasise, according to ASHARQ AL AWSAT, that they had not yet reached any final conclusions in their investigation of what happened in Bahrain, and that they had not made any decision to the effect that the Bahraini government did not commit human rights abuses during the demonstrations earlier in the year. Some media had misrepresented the comments of the commission's chair, maintained the commission.

The five-person commission was established by Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa in order to investigate alleged abuses during the government's handling of the uprising, which was led in the main by Shiites who make up some 70 percent of the island kingdom's population. Security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, and in mid-March called in troops from other Sunni Gulf monarchies. Authorities also tore down the Pearl Monument in Manama, which had become a focal point of the uprising. The commission is due to report on October 30.
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Publication:The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Aug 17, 2011
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