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Groups: 11-year-old detained in Bahrain anti-government crackdown

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Posted at 7:16 AM, Jun 10, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-10 06:19:59-04

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) – An 11-year-old boy has been detained by Bahraini authorities for participating in what the government calls an “illegal gathering,” an arrest that human rights groups say comes amid the country’s continued crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Rights groups on Saturday demanded the release of the boy, Ali Hasan, following news that Bahrain’s Juvenile Court ordered the youth moved from a jail to a juvenile detention facility.

Hasan was arrested on May 14 by Bahraini authorities for allegedly participating in an “illegal gathering” with about a dozen others, the Bahrain International Affairs Authority, the kingdom’s information office.

But an attorney for Hasan’s family disputes the government account, saying the boy was playing with two other children in the street when he was stopped by police.

The attorney, Shahzalan Khamees, said that police stopped Hasan and two other boys, who managed to run away. Khamees said Hasan claims the police threatened to shoot him with a pellet gun if he ran.

The boy, according to Khamees, was then detained for questioning.

The Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization, an Ireland-based rights group, demanded Hasan’s immediate release.

There are a “growing number of children detained for investigation in security cases,” the group said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights expressed concern about the government’s targeting of children under the age of 15 in its crackdown.

The rights group said Hasan, who they claim is 11, was the youngest detainee in Bahrain’s prison system. The government did not immediately respond to the allegation.

Bahrain has been heavily criticized by rights groups for its crackdown on anti-government protests that began February 14, 2011, in Bahrain — spurred by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

But the protests failed to gain the traction of other Arab Spring uprisings following a crackdown in February and then again in mid-March by Bahraini authorities — backed by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Demonstrators and Bahraini authorities have continued to clash, with the opposition accusing the government of being heavy handed in its crackdown on protests.

In November, Bahrain’s Independent Commission of Inquiry issued a report highly critical of the crackdown.

The commission, set up by the king, concluded that police had used excessive force and torture during last year’s crackdown on protests. The report recommended reforms to the country’s law and better training of its security forces.

CNN’s Saad Abedine and Samira Said contributed to this report.