July 4, 2017 / 9:05 AM / a month ago

Bahraini alleged torture victim arrested - rights group

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Bahraini activist was arrested at her home late on Monday by masked and armed state security officers, a month after she complained of being tortured and sexually assaulted when she was summoned for questioning, a London-based rights group said.

Western-allied Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, has stepped up a crackdown on critics, shutting down two main political groups, revoking the citizenship of a Shi'ite Muslim spiritual leader and jailing rights campaigners.

Officers believed to be from the National Security Agency (NSA) surrounded Ebtisam al-Sayegh's home and arrested her, the London-based Bahrain Centre for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said.

It warned that Sayegh was at risk of further abuse.

"The officers, all masked, had body and head cameras and were armed. They demanded her mobile phone and her CPR (national ID) card," BIRD said in a statement, citing family members.

"Two masked, civilian-clothed female officers cuffed and detained al-Sayegh," the statement added.

Bahraini officials did not respond to questions emailed by Reuters on the report.

Last month, Amnesty International called on Bahrain to investigate claims by Sayegh that she was tortured and sexually assaulted when she was held for seven hours at an NSA building in Muharraq, north-west of the capital Manama.

Bahrain denies rights abuses and has installed cameras at interrogation centres as measures to guard against violations.

Sayegh told Amnesty that she was questioned about events in Diraz village on May 23 when security forces raided the home of a Shi'ite spiritual leader and opened fire on demonstrators.

The kingdom has been a flashpoint since protests in 2011 during the "Arab Spring" uprisings across the region, were put down by the Sunni-led government with the help of neighbouring Gulf Arab states.

Last year authorities banned the main Shi'ite Muslim opposition group, al-Wefaq, and on Wednesday a court ordered the dissolution of the main secular opposition group Waad.

Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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