Police Off Streets During March For 2nd Slain Protester In Bahrain

Thousands of people gathered Wednesday for the peaceful funeral procession for a Bahraini man killed when clashes erupted during the another protester's funeral procession, the president of a human rights group said.

Bahraini protesters in Pearl Square, Manama, hold signs, February 16, 2011. One reads: "We will not forget you oh martyrs."

Thousands of people gathered Wednesday for the peaceful funeral procession for a Bahraini man killed when clashes erupted during the another protester's funeral procession, the president of a human rights group said.

Demonstrators picked up the body of Fadhel Matrook, 31, from a morgue Wednesday and marched to a cemetery with no police presence on the streets, said Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

Protests in Bahrain are completely "peaceful" now that "there is not interference from the police," said Rajab, who marched in the funeral procession. He said police helicopters flew overhead.

Human rights groups say Matrook was shot by security forces using pellet guns during the Tuesday procession for Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima, who was killed Monday. Rajab said Mushaima was protesting for human rights near Manama.

Protesters gathered at Pearl Square in Bahrain on Tuesday.

Bahrain is among the latest Arab states to face a surge of dissent following the revolts that toppled longtime autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.

On Wednesday morning, thousands of activists camped out at the foot of a Bahraini landmark after the Persian Gulf island's king pledged to consider reforms and investigate the killings.

Police were nowhere in sight as about 3,000 people laid out blankets and pitched tents in Manama's Pearl Roundabout, where a massive pearl sits at the apex of a circle of inward-sweeping arches. Police gave the area a wide berth,

apparently allowing protesters to vent their anger before Wednesday's funeral, said Mansoor Al-Jamri, editor of the newspaper Al Wasat.

Demonstrators painted anti-government slogans on the bases of the monument, sang, told jokes and led chants.

Demonstrators in Bahrain carried defaced posters of the king and the crown prince on Tuesday.

"It's a very relaxed atmosphere," Al-Jamri told CNN. "You'd assume it was a picnic area if you didn't know it was the aftermath of people who died."

On Tuesday, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa went on television to announce that a committee would be established to study proposed reforms.

"We will ask the legislative authority to look at this phenomena and to suggest the necessary legislation which will solve this in a way that will benefit the homeland and its citizens," he said. He vowed that his government would investigate the killings of the two protesters by security forces.

Activists have decried the use of pellet guns at short range by Bahrain's security forces. Amnesty International called the deaths "tragic" and "a very worrying development."

In a recent report, the group said Bahraini authorities detained 23 opposition political activists in August and September, and held them without contact for two weeks, "during which some allege they were tortured."


Bahrain's Interior Ministry said on its website that an investigation has been ordered to find out the reason behind the incident. The kingdom's main opposition party, al Wifaq, has suspended its participation in parliament because of the security forces' action.

Bahrain is an American ally and houses the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. In Washington, the State Department said Tuesday it was "very concerned" by the violence and said it welcomed the promise of an investigation.

Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family, but two-thirds of the population are Shiites. In recent years, younger Shiites have staged violent protests to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption, and many Shiites say the country's constitution has done little to improve their condition.

The protest movement in Bahrain has been organized using social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, in the same manner as the protests in Tunisia and Egypt.

CNN