MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A 23-year-old detainee in Bahrain has died a week after being taken to the hospital, authorities in the Gulf island kingdom said Wednesday.
Opposition activists and human rights groups have in the past raised concerns about the alleged mistreatment of detainees in custody amid a three-year uprising by a Shiite-dominated opposition seeking greater political rights from the country's Sunni rulers.
Bahrain, an American ally that hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, says it is committed to complying with human rights norms. The Ministry of Interior said in a statement that detainee Jaffar Mohammed Jaffar died at around 3:15 a.m. He had been receiving treatment at Salmaniya Medical Complex after being admitted on February 19.
Jaffar had sickle cell anemia, according to the ministry. No cause of death was given, and it was unclear how his disease contributed to his death. In April 2011, a supporter of Bahrain's anti-government movement, Rashid Zakaria Hassan, 40, was found dead in a detention facility. A medical examiner determined that complications from sickle-cell anemia resulted in his death.
In a separate statement, the Interior Ministry urged Bahrainis not to take part in fighting in conflicts abroad and warned against becoming involved with religious extremist groups. It specifically raised concerns about Bahraini citizens who have joined the fight in Syria, and said it was preparing draft legislation aimed at further deterring citizens from fighting abroad or receiving weapons training.
It follows a royal decree issued earlier this month by neighboring Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah punishing citizens who fight in conflicts outside the kingdom with prison sentences ranging from three to 20 years in jail.
Many Sunnis in the Arab Gulf back predominantly Sunni rebels against Syria's President Bashar Assad, who comes from a Shiite offshoot sect.