Bahrain expels activists ahead of protests anniversary

Bahrain expels activists ahead of protests anniversary
DUBAI — Bahrain said on Saturday it had expelled two human rights activists who had arrived in the Gulf kingdom from abroad for "illegal" activities, ahead of Tuesday's anniversary of the outbreak of Shiite-led protests.
The authorities said the two women, Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath, had arrived in Bahrain over the past few days and were deported "for applying for tourist visas under false pretences."
The pair "obtained tourist visas upon arrival at the airport. However, once in Bahrain, they declared their intentions to join demonstrations in order to report on them," the official Information Affairs Authority said in a statement.
"Arraf and Sainath were picked up at an illegal demonstration in Manama this afternoon (Saturday)," it added.
The statement added that the two "work with a group calling itself 'Witness Bahrain' and established a website and Twitter accounts to promote the activities of the banned organisation, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights."
Tensions have run high in Bahrain as the opposition and activists prepare to commemorate the first anniversary of their uprising on Tuesday.
Activists have announced plans to march to Manama's former Pearl Square, the focal point of the protest, which was razed after the deadly crackdown.
The Bahraini authorities have rejected a visa request by AFP and other international media to cover the first anniversary of the pro-democracy Shiite-led protest that was brutally crushed.
Last year's crackdown led to the deaths of 35 people, including five security personnel and five detainees who were tortured to death, an independent commission of inquiry appointed by King Hamad found.
An opposition activist said earlier on Saturday that security forces injured three people after firing tear gas at demonstrators ahead of the anniversary.
Several others suffered from breathing difficulties after inhaling the gas.
Bahraini forces "are excessively using tear gas to punish residents in areas where protests are taking place," said the opposition activist.