LONDON, Sept 7 (Reuters) - The United Nations should help investigate allegations that opposition figures in Bahrain have been tortured in prison in the run-up to next month's elections, a British politician said on Tuesday.
Eric Lubbock, vice-chairman of a parliamentary human rights group, called for an urgent investigation into claims from opposition activists that they were tortured after being detained in a crackdown last month in the Gulf state.
Bahrain's Sunni government has arrested more than 20 Shi'ite opposition leaders, accusing them of plotting a coup and inciting "violence, rioting and terrorism".
"The U.N. rapporteur on torture should be invited to nominate an independent physician who would be allowed access to the detainees to report on their allegations of torture," Lubbock told a news conference.
"If they are found to have substance, there should be a further inquiry by an independent lawyer."
Lubbock, a long-term campaigner for better human rights in Bahrain, called on the British government to do more to help those who say they have been mistreated.
Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, is ruled by a Sunni minority, but has a majority Shi'ite population that complains of inequality in jobs and services. Bahrain rejects claims of discrimination.
The country has seen frequent clashes between police and Shi'ite protesters and the latest detentions triggered more protests, some of them violent.
Saeed Shehabi, of the London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement, an opposition group, said some of those in custody complained of being beaten, tied up and threatened with sexual assault.
"The extent of the torture this time has surpassed any level we have seen before," he told the news conference.
Bahrain chief prosecutor Abdulrahman al-Sayyid said those arrested were accused of inciting street violence and using the internet and mosques to try to overthrow "the political system of the state by force".
"Justice will run its course with respect for the constitution and law and preserving the principles of human rights, as international charters have fixed them," he said.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Hammond in Dubai)
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