Bahraini authorities have started granting limited access to Al-Eker village which has been under a state of near-siege since a policeman was killed in an explosion at a pro-democracy demonstration.

Seven people have been detained over the killing. Human rights activists were prevented access to the village to investigate reports of house raids, arrests and violence by security forces.

Authorities in Bahrain have fired tear gas to disperse more than 200 protesters trying to enter a village.

According to some reports, a woman in labour was refused permission to go to hospital and had to have the baby at home. Opposition activists described conditions in Al-Eker, just 12 miles south of the capital Manama, as "a medieval, barbaric case of collective punishment".

"A whole village is suffering. There's a lack of food, lack of medicine, children are being denied access to schools, mosques are closed and much worse," the opposition Al Wefaq party said.

"This is nothing short of an old-fashioned medieval siege. This is the Bahrain authorities' version of justice, where no proper investigation is carried out - just mass arrests and terrorising of the people."

Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority denied that the village was under siege and said reports were "greatly exaggerated". They claim checkpoints had been set up around the village to maintain security.

Al Wefaq claimed that security forces in the village had "verbally abused, harassed [and] severely beaten citizens".

Bahraini activist Maryam Al-Khawaja, who is also acting president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), claimed on Twitter that four people arrested in the village were tortured and sexually abused. She reported the words of Said Yousif Al Muhafdhah, who met the arrested people from Al-Eker.

"At the hospital Yousif met four people who had been arrested in Al-Eker, reportedly without a warrant," she tweeted. "They were arrested at dawn on Saturday by masked men in civilian clothing.

"They were taken directly to the CID. At the CID they were allegedly sexually assaulted by touching their private parts.

"They were slapped and beaten and forced to stand for almost an entire day in addition to enduring verbal insults. Infamous Isa Al-Majali [a senior police officer], who has several torture complaints against him, told them to sign prepared confessions, reportedly threatening them with the death chamber, electric shocks and rape.

"They were then moved to the public prosecutor's [office] where they were reportedly told that if they don't sign the confessions they will be taken back to the CID. The four from Al-Eker were forced to sign without lawyers present," she said.

The dead policeman was named as Imran Ahmed Mohammed, 19.