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Unarmed protester in Bahrain shot in the face by police

Bahrain's Ministry of Interior has launched an investigation into a protester being shot in the head by security forces
A protester holds a photo of jailed Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman in Bahrain (YouTube screen grab)

A video posted to YouTube on Tuesday showed an unarmed protester in Bahrain being shot in the head at close range while holding a photo of jailed opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman.

The footage shows a hooded man standing on a street corner in an unidentified area of the kingdom, holding a photo of the Wefaq chief, the island’s main Shiite opposition party.

An officer in a nearby armoured vehicle points a gun through a small opening and shoots the man in the head. The protester then runs toward the person recording the incident and is seen bleeding heavily from his face.

The unidentified man is then taken for medical treatment. His current condition is unknown.

Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior announced Wednesday an investigation into the shooting and called on “anyone with information […] to go to the nearest police station”.

Wefaq leader Salman was arrested on 31 December and has since been charged with “prompting political change using illegal forceful means and threats”.

The US, UN and EU have all expressed concern at Salman’s detention and Human Rights Watch have said they could find no evidence of him having directly incited violence in Bahrain.

The tiny Gulf state has been in the grip of an uprising since February 2011, when hundreds of thousands gathered to call for democratic reforms on an island ruled by the al-Khalifa monarchy.

Britain, a close ally of Bahrain, has strongly supported the monarchy and on Tuesday praised its efforts in implementing reforms to address unrest among the population.

“It is a country travelling in the right direction,” Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the House of Commons, while defending the government’s recent decision to open a naval base in Bahrain.

“It is making significant reform. The crown prince who is charged with this agenda is directly engaged and has made significant progress even over the last few months.”

Hammond’s comments came shortly before Bahrain’s leading human rights activist was sentenced to six months in prison for a tweet critical of the security forces.

Nabeel Rajab was convicted of “offending government institutions” for a comment about Bahraini security services being an “ideological incubator” for individuals who have fled to join the Islamic State group.

He remains on bail pending an appeal.