Bahrain police on trial over death of detained blogger Zakariya Rashid Hassan al-Ashiri


Bahraini anti-government protesters run for cover from tear gas during clashes with riot police near the headquarters of the main Shiite opposition group, Al-Wefaq, in Zinj Village, west of Manama, on December 23, 2011.



Five police officers accused of involvement in the death in custody of blogger Zakariya Rashid Hassan al-Ashiri have gone on trial in Bahrain's capital, Manama.

Ashiri died on April 9 last year while being detained for allegedly inciting hatred against the government, the BBC reported.

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The cause of death was originally given as complications resulting from sickle-cell anaemia, but photos of his body showed heavy bruises that suggested he had been beaten.

Two of the officers in court face charges related to giving a fatal beating, according to the BBC, while the other three have been charged with failing to report a crime.

The maximum sentence for the two officers accused of helping cause Ashiri's death is seven years.

Ashiri is one of two journalists killed this year in Bahrain, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The other, Karim Fakhrawi, also died in police custody during anti-government protests, just three days after Ashiri. State media reported he had died of kidney failure, but photographic evidence indicated that he, too, had been severely beaten.

Bahrain has promised to hold security forces accountable for the mistreatment of people detained during months of protests, after a high-profile report accused authorities of unlawfully dispersing, detaining and torturing demonstrators. Twenty security forces were charged in November.

Convictions of protesters in military courts are also being reviewed as part of the report's recommendations, resulting most recently in the overturn of death sentences given to two protesters accused of murdering policemen, the Associated Press reported.

Activists report that the state's crackdown has continued, however, prompting the US State Department to say it was "deeply concerned" by the ongoing violence.

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