STATEMENTS

Twitter removes thousands of Saudi accounts, two Bahrainis face death penalty

On 20th December Twitter disclosed how they removed thousands of Saudi accounts: “Today, we are sharing comprehensive data about 5,929 accounts which we have removed for violating our platform manipulation policies. Rigorous investigations by our Site Integrity team have allowed us to attribute these accounts to a significant state-backed information operation on Twitter originating in Saudi Arabia.” It further added: “Our internal analysis shows the network was involved in various forms of platform manipulation, targeting discussions related to Saudi Arabia and advancing their geopolitical interests on the world stage. Primarily, accounts were amplifying messages favourable to Saudi authorities, mainly through inauthentic engagement tactics such as aggressive liking, Retweeting and replying. While the majority of the content from this network was in Arabic, a portion of it related to events relevant to Western audiences, including amplification of discussion around sanctions in Iran and appearances by Saudi government officials in Western media.”

On 23rd December Amnesty International described the Saudi government’s sentencing of five men to death for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a “whitewash” of justice because they cleared the top officials tied to Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. It derided the Saudi Public Prosecutor’s announcement they would be executing five individuals for “directly participating” in the October 2018 murder of Khashoggi. Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor Shaalan al-Shaalan sentenced three additional men to prison time but ultimately cleared the three top advisers under bin Salman. US as well as other international agencies have said Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered inside the embassy. AI said: “[The verdict] fails to address the Saudi authorities’ involvement in this devastating crime or clarify the location of Jamal Khashoggi’s remains.” It added: “This verdict is a whitewash which brings neither justice nor the truth for Jamal Khashoggi and his loved ones. The trial has been closed to the public and to independent monitors, with no information available as to how the investigation was carried out”.

Soon after the Queen had delivered her speech at the opening of the new parliament last week, in which she said that the countries which violate human rights should be sanctioned, Jeremy Corbyn asked Boris Johnson whether his government would implement this policy. He asked if this policy would include Saudi Arabia or would the government give a blind eye to the kingdom and ignore its bad human rights record and the Yemen war which has transformed into a humanitarian disaster.

On 23rd December Mohammed Ramadhan, native Bahraini condemned to death published an article published by Newsweek, about the decision by Bahrain dictators to re-try him and his colleague, Hussain Moosa on Christmas day. He said: On a day when billions will be surrounded by loved ones celebrating the birth of Jesus, I will be facing the death penalty. I have committed no crime, so the Kingdom of Bahrain has invented some and tortured me into ‘confessing’ to them. This is my punishment for standing up for freedom and democracy. When hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets in 2011 to peacefully demand democratic reforms, I joined the protests, believing Bahrain’s rulers would heed the concerns of their citizens. Instead, America’s ally in the Gulf responded with senseless brutality. Over the next few years, protesters were hunted down: thousands were imprisoned, political opposition was outlawed and torture became routine. As an employee of the security services who dared question the regime, I was singled out for special punishment.”

On 20th December twenty Members of European Parliament sent a letter to the khalifi justice minister, raising concerns about the case of Mohamed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa. The MEPs described the rescheduling of their case to Christmas as “an attempt by Bahraini authorities to undermine the international community’s ability to monitor and react to the situation.” The MEPs also noted the 31 December 2018 Court of Cassation verdict for human rights defender Nabeel Rajab as a similar attempt to avoid scrutiny.

A delegation of a major Israel lobby group visited Bahrain last week. Bahrain’s interior minister, Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, received a delegation from the American Jewish Committee, which was headed by their chief policy and political affairs officer Jason Isaacson. The delegation also met with Abdulla bin Faisal Al Doseri, Bahrain’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, in his office. The AJC presented Bahrain with an award in September for being “opening and welcoming” towards the Israel lobby group. Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, arguably the most brazenly pro-Israel Gulf official, received the “Architect of Peace” award on his country’s behalf.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

25th December 2019 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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