From Russian Newspaper:

St. Petersburg law enforcers have filed a new criminal case against award-winning Voina art group for burning down an armored police truck on New Year’s Eve. They also addressed the group, whose activists are in hiding, via news web site late last week.

Late on Dec. 31, a Voina activist climbed over a fence surrounding Police Precinct No. 71 on the Petrograd Side and set fire to a massive Ural truck using Molotov cocktails as an art stunt called “Cop’s Auto-Da-Fe, or Fucking Prometheus,” Voina spokesman and chronicler Alexei Plutser-Sarno said on his blog.

The statement said the armored Ural police truck was targeted because it was a prison-on-wheels used for holding and transporting detainees.

“This is our modest New Year present to political prisoners from a group of artists,” Voina’s Oleg Vorotnikov said in an email interview this week.

“It’s undisputable that political prisoners are forgotten by Russian society — because they remain locked up in prisons. Political prisoners have become the norm in Russia, and this norm is a despicable crime of the state and its cowardly and indifferent citizens.”

According to Vorotnikov, the group came up with the idea of “giving the gift of a burning prisoner truck” when activist Filipp Kostenko, who spent 15 days in custody after being arrested at the Dec. 6 protest against electoral fraud, was arrested right in the detention center as soon as his term had finished on Dec. 21 and was sentenced for another 15 days on what he called fake charges.

Vorotnikov believes that “Cop’s Auto-Da-Fe” had an immediate effect: The court declined to put Kostenko in a pre-trial detention center at the end of his second prison term on Jan. 4 until his next court hearing due on Jan. 29, despite the investigators’ request for it to do so. Kostenko was released on Jan. 5 after spending 30 days in custody.

“There are characters who act arrogantly and pretend to be kings, annoying everybody and interfering with everyone’s life — but only until the first hurdle,” Vorotnikov said.

“Once they are given a rap on their forehead, such characters quiet down and start behaving respectfully and politely. Such are the cops from the political police in Russia.

“Let them talk now about what methods are more efficient; peaceful dances in condoms at rallies [a reference to music critic Artyom Troitsky, who spoke at a Moscow anti-fraud rally in December wearing a condom costume] or the smell of fresh napalm at night.”

Published on Jan. 2, Plutser-Sarno’s posting included photos and a video of the arson. As the news made headlines, later on Jan. 2 the police issued a statement saying that the damage was “minor” and that an investigation into the cause of the fire was underway. The police pointed out that a similar blaze in a police car last year originally reported to be arson was in reality caused by a short circuit.

On Friday, however, the police said that a criminal case into “hooliganism” or criminal mischief (Article 213 of the Russian penal code) had been filed over the incident, and addressed Voina via, a local news web site that has police ties.

According to the site, the police suggested that the artists should come to a Petrograd Side police precinct, get in touch with the investigator in charge of the case and “present their artistic views.” “In turn, the police officers promise to pass the results of these conversations to journalists in full,” continued, sarcastically.

“We are not interested in the cops’ proposal,” Vorotnikov said in an email Monday.

“We don’t feel that we have any lack of communication with journalists. We can always arrange a press conference if we need to make a direct statement.”

Vorotnikov reminded police that his wife Natalya “Kozlyonok” Sokol and their two-year-old son Kasper had been beaten by plainclothes policemen after a Voina press conference in March.

Meanwhile, the group said that a criminal case against its members for the Palace Revolution art stunt, which involved overturning a parked police car in St. Petersburg in September 2010, had been closed for the second time.

The case, which charged Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolayev with hooliganism motivated by hatred toward a social group, was originally closed in mid-October after Herzen Pedagogical University experts came to the conclusion that the police is not a “social group.”

However, the case was reopened two weeks later after the prosecutor’s office repealed the investigators’ decision. Voina reported that it had found out Sunday that investigator Vadim Rud closed the case for a second time as early as Dec. 1.

Vorotnikov and Nikolayev spent three-and-a-half months in pre-trial detention after they were arrested in Moscow in November 2010, but were released on bail — 300,000 rubles ($9,455) each — paid from a donation made by British street artist Banksy, who learned about the legal charges facing the group via the BBC.

In April, two separate criminal cases against Voina activists — Vorotnikov and his wife Sokol — were filed after the activists were detained during a protest march to City Hall held on March 31. They were charged with disorderly conduct, using violence against a police officer and insulting a police officer. Later, international arrest warrants were issued for the two.

From Bahrain:

MANAMA, Feb. 8, 2012 (Reuters) — The funeral march for Mohammed Yaacoub had barely ended last week when police and protesters faced off in the town of Sitra, an impoverished district of Bahrain that has borne the brunt of a year of unrest.
Teenagers using scarves to mask their faces went on a rampage wielding iron bars and petrol bombs, and riot police in their prim blue uniforms and white helmets fired off teargas rounds and stormed down alleyways in their trademark jeeps.

„People have no alternative — all we have is tires to burn and Molotovs to throw,“ one activist said. „As long as the government is not ready to respond, anything is possible.“

The Bahrain government’s security tactics and offer of concessions appear to have failed in calming the streets; if anything the conflict with opposition activists pushing for democratic reforms has become more violent in recent weeks.
Police continue to clash with disaffected youth in underdeveloped neighborhoods populated by the island state’s majority Shi’ite Muslim population, who complain of political and economic marginalization by the ruling elite of Al Khalifa and allied families.

Activists say at least 25 people have died since June, in some cases after exposure to teargas or in incidents as police in cars storm down alleyways in pursuit of teenagers.

At least ten of these deaths occurred in the last two months, after a commission of international legal scholars charged with investigating claims of widespread rights abuses during the period of martial law at the end of November delivered a damning report revealing torture of detainees and flawed military trials.
„We definitely see an escalation from the radical elements of the protesters. We see their use of homemade weapons that have hurt our policemen in a bad way,“ said Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, a senior adviser at the Information Affairs Authority and former ambassador to London.
The interior ministry says it wants legislation meting out 15-year sentences to those who attack police — a police car was destroyed in a petrol bomb attack last week, though no policeman has died in the clashes since March.
Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, says his team of 20 researchers have documented 60 deaths since February 14 and that the hardline approach used by police has stiffened in the past two months.

He said that rather than take youths to police stations, a pattern has developed of beating them on the spot or holding them for short periods in informal detention centers where they are beaten up before release.
One case was that of Mohammed Yaacoub, a 19-year-old from Sitra who died in police custody last month from what they said were complications resulting from sickle cell disease.

One resident, who gave her name as Umm Fadhel, told Reuters she witnessed riot police stamping on him and beating him with batons. Activists say his body showed bruising, abrasions and a cut, but there were no obvious signs of abuse.

The lawyer of one teenager from Sitra said he was molested outside the police station. „He told the prosecutor that riot police tried to sexually abuse him but the Bahraini officer in charge stopped him,“ said Fatima al-Khudair. The youth remains in detention on charges of taking part in an illegal gathering.

The brother of a teenager from Dimistan said he was struck by a police car at high speed after clashes last week, but they took him to a private clinic for fear of arrest or mistreatment in a government-run hospital.