Bahrain has sentenced twenty activists to prison sentences ranging from five years to life. Among those sentenced were Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who underwent a 110-day hunger strike earlier this year in protest of his torture and mistreatment by security and prison staff.
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights reported on the verdicts on the cases of twenty activists which were upheld from previous sentences by military courts today. Charges included attempting to overthrow the government.
The sentences may be appealed to the Supreme Court in Bahrain. Some analysts have speculated that the government is holding the activists as a bargaining chip in upcoming talks with the opposition; others posit the rulings are a concession to hardliners with the government and an attempt to send a defiant message to the U.S. and other nations who have called for clemency.
Whatever the motives, the widely-condemned sentences will surely continue to polarize the nation and obstruct dialogue. The government’s official news media has branded the activists as “terrorists.”
The thirteen activists who are currently imprisoned were charged by the National Safety Court, a military tribunal, in June 2011 after being arrested in February and March 2011. These trials were later deemed unlawful and have been criticized as violations of human rights. It is acknowledged and documented that the confessions that led to the June sentences were extracted through extreme instances of torture. Yet, today those sentences were upheld by a civilian court.
“Today’s court decision is another blow to justice and it shows once more that the Bahraini authorities are not on the path of reform but seem rather driven by vindictiveness.” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Programme (AFP).
Sentenced to life in prison:
- Abdulwahab Hussain Ali
- Abduljalil Abdullah Al Singace, Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy
- Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, President, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
- Abduljalil Mansoor Makk (Abdul Jalil Miqdad)
- Mohammed Habib Al Safaf ( Mohammed Habib Miqdad)
- Hassan Ali Mushaima
- Saeed Mirza Ahmed. ( Saeed AlNouri)
Sentenced to fifteen years in prison:
- Abdul Hadi Abdullah Mahdi Hassan ( Abdulhadi AlMukhodher)
- Mohammed Ali Ismael
- Mohammed Hassan Jawad
Sentenced to five years in prison:
- Abdullah Isa Al Mahroos
- Ibrahim Sharif Abdulraheem Mossa
- Salah Hubail Al Khawaj
Seven activists were sentenced in absentia. Sentenced to life in prison was Saeed Abdulnabi Shehab. The remaining six activists who are not currently in prison were sentenced to fifteen years:
- Akeel Ahmed Al Mafoodh
- Ali Hassan Abdulla (Ali Abdulemam) – blogger
- Abdulghani Ali Khanjar
- Abdulraoof Al Shayeb
- Abbas Al Omran
- Ali Hassan Mushaima
Here are some of today’s news stories on the developments.
Andrew Hammond, Reuters: UPDATE 2-Bahrain court upholds sentences on uprising leaders
Al Jazeera: Bahrain courts uphold activists’ conviction
Associated Press: Bahrain court upholds life sentences for opposition activists (appeared in Washington Post and New York Times)
Frank Gardner, BBC News: Bahrain appeal court upholds activists’ convictions
- Bahrain Court Upholds Life Sentences for Activists (nytimes.com)
Public Congressional hearing on Bahrain
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing this Wednesday in Washington, DC to hear witnesses report on the extent to which the government of Bahrain has implemented the human rights protections recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in November 2011.
The hearing is open to the public and will take place in Room 2237 of the Rayburn House Office Building (second floor) on Wednesday, August 1, from 1 pm to 3 pm.
The Rayburn Office Building occupies a site southwest of the Capitol bounded by Independence Avenue, South Capitol Street, C Street S.W., and First Street S.W. (View map) in Washington, DC.
Witnesses will appear in three panels.
The witness for the first panel will be Ron Wyden, U.S. Senator for Oregon. Senator Wyden was one of 24 senators and congressional representatives to oppose the sale of arms to Bahrain.
The witness for the second panel will be Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Mr. Posner has visited Bahrain five times in the past two years, the most recently on June 12 of this year, when he spoke to the press at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain.
Four witnesses will testify on the third and final panel. They will be
Matar Ebrahim Matar, former member of Bahrain’s parliament and leading member of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest political party in Bahrain. Mr. Matar recently appeared on Al Jazeera’s television news program, The Stream (video link) to opine about the state of reforms in Bahrain.
Leslie Campbell, Senior Associate Director and Regional Director of Middle East and North Africa Programs, National Democratic Institute. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the National Democratic Institute was formed by the U.S. government to foster movements toward democracy in foreign nations, and is funded both by taxpayers (through the State Department and other agencies) and by contributions from foreign governments (including, notably, the Kingdom of Bahrain) and donations from others. The organization’s work in Bahrain has focused on encouraging citizen participation in elections.
Tom Walinowski, Director of Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch is a New York-based nonprofit organization that has advocated for human rights in Bahrain.
Richard Sollom, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights. This organization has advocated for dismissal of charges against the Bahraini medics and has called for a cease of the indiscriminate and excessive use of tear gas in Bahrain, which has been linked to fatalities and miscarriages. The nonprofit is based in Massachusetts.
From Union Station:
Start off going around Columbus Circle and joining 1st Street Northeast, going south. Take a left onto D Street, and shortly afterward a right onto 2nd Street Northeast. Follow 2nd Street South until it becomes 2nd Street Southeast, then take a right onto C Street Southeast. Follow C Street down the hill. The Rayburn House Office Building will be the fourth large building on your right, at the bottom of the hill.
From Capitol South Station:
Start off walking north on 1st Street, and cross C Street. Take a left and walk down the hill, following C Street. The Rayburn House Office Building will be the third large building on your right, at the bottom of the hill.
From Federal Center Southwest Station:
Start off walking north on 3rd Street, and take a right at C Street. Follow C Street to 2nd Street, then cross the road and the park. Stay on C Street across the roads, and you will see the Rayburn House Office Building on your left.
- U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner reiterates calls for accountability, restraint in Bahrain (bahraincoordinatingcommittee.org)
- Ambassador Donahoe calls for reforms in Bahrain (bahraincoordinatingcommittee.org)
Opposition groups called for protests in ten areas around Bahrain to take place today, Friday, July 13th. The protests were set to start at 5pm Bahrain time. The Ministry of Interior announced yesterday that all demonstrations would be considered illegal, and anyone participating in today’s events would be breaking the law.
Today, riot police were on the scene early. Many streets were closed, and some towns were partly sealed off, preventing people from getting in. Checkpoints were installed in other areas.
Despite the intense security measures and attempts to prevent protesters from joining the demonstrations, people went out anyway. The crackdown started even before even the demonstrations commenced. Tear gas and flashbang grenades were fired in every town that attempted to protest.
Riot police raided many private homes, in some cases firing at the occupants. In Karzakan, a 16 year old girl was shot with a flashbang grenade, and at the same house a 40 year old woman was forced out of the shower naked. Police also directly targeted protesters. A 13 year old from Al Dair was shot in her ankle with a tear gas canister.
The Bahrain Coordinating Committee has not yet been able to establish the exact number of injuries, but the pictures below tell the story.
Witness Bahrain interviewed human rights activist and Bahrain Center for Human Rights President Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain yesterday (July 9) just before he was taken to jail for a three-month sentence related to an update he posted on Twitter.
In the video, Rajab states: “I will not stop and I’m teaching people not to stop. If everybody will keep quiet after putting them in jail, then it’s a disaster. We should challenge that. We should be willing to pay the price for the struggle for the freedom that we fight for. And this is the price.”
The Bahrain Coordinating Committee supports the universal right to freedom of expression and calls for the immediate release of Nabeel Rajab.
- Bahrain Activist Jailed for a Tweet (theatlanticwire.com)
- Jail for Bahrain protest leader over tweet (aljazeera.com)
- Bahrain: Rights Activist Jailed for ‘Insulting’ Tweets (hrw.org)
The BICI report was released on November 23, 2011.
Today, on July 9, 2012, protesters and anyone unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in Bahrain are still being shot, teargassed, beaten, detained, and tortured.
Eight months of promises and very little improvement on the human rights front.
Photos tell the story…
- Ambassador Donahoe calls for reforms in Bahrain (bahraincoordinatingcommittee.org)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Download PDF of this press release
Media Contact: Mary Fletcher Jones
Email: BahrainCC.firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 24/7 (571) 269-7559
Nabeel Rajab Released On Bail; New Hearing Scheduled for June 17
[Washington, DC] May 28, 2012 — The DC-based Bahrain Coordinating Committee is pleased to announce the release of Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab on bail, who has been detained in prison in Bahrain since May 5 pending his hearing today.
Prior to today, the option of Rajab’s release on bail was in some doubt, but the court released the activist on payment of BD 300 (about $800 US), on the condition that he not travel.
Rajab was arrested on charges that he incited illegal demonstrations through Twitter updates. The activist, who has more than 100,000 Twitter followers, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His hearing has been scheduled for June 17.
The Bahrain Coordinating Committee supports the exercise of free political expression, and advocates for the dismissal of charges against Rajab.
About the Bahrain Coordinating Committee
The Bahrain Coordinating Committee is a Washington, DC-based grassroots movement that works to obtain U.S. support for democracy and human rights reforms in Bahrain. For more information, please visit http://www.BahrainCoordinatingCommittee.org
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Friday, March 23 – Al Jazeera reports that there has been more dissent in Bahrain, with protests calling for reform. The demonstrations were largely peaceful but there were clashes with police in some parts of the capital. Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall reports from Manama.