The families of five Bahrainis killed during a security raid last week accused authorities of depriving them from bidding farewell to their loved ones after authorities buried the bodies without their permission.
An interior ministry official said the five were buried on Friday after having contacted the families to attend funeral services, only to change their minds later, the Arabic-language al-Wasat newspaper reported on Sunday.
The dispute over the burial was likely to increase tensions in the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab island where a government crackdown on opponents has already angered majority Shi’ite Muslims who have been demanding a bigger share in running the Western-allied country.
Authorities said the five killed were among a group that attacked security forces during a raid in Diraz, the village of Shi’ite Muslim spiritual leader Ayatollah Isa Qassim, and that nearly 300 people were also arrested.
In a statement received by Reuters on Sunday, the families said they had received a call on Friday to send two male members to a local police station.
The families said, knowing that the summoning of male relatives meant a burial ceremony was planned, they refused to go, demanding instead that the bodies be handed over for proper funeral services.
“The martyrs’ families announce that depriving them from burying their sons in accordance with their wish can be construed as a crime which will be added to the first crime of liquidating them in the field,” the families said in a statement.
The raid, days after President Donald Trump said U.S. ties with the Sunni-ruled kingdom — long strained over its human rights record — would improve, stoked tensions in the Gulf kingdom where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based.
Bahrain was rocked by mass protests in 2011 that were quelled by security forces. But protests continued to erupt from time to time without with varying intensity.
The government says opposition has been working with Iran, Gulf states’ arch-rival, to overthrow the government. Iran denies the accusations.
(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by Sami Aboudi and David Evans)