STATEMENTS

Hundreds of Saudis detained, Calls to repatriate stranded Bahrainis

The Saudi regime has carried out another massive crackdown starting with the arrest of four senior figures from the Saudi household itself. Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) ordered the arrest of his uncle Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz (76), his son Nayef, his cousin and former crown prince Mohammad bin Nayef and his brother Nawwaf. At least 300 others including princes and businessmen were detained in what MBS claimed to be a war on corruption. The suspects include eight defence ministry officers, including a major-general, 15 interior ministry officials, including a major-general and a brigadier-general, two judges, and health and education officials. In 2017 he detained several members of the royal family and syphoned their wealth collecting more than $100 billion. “The fight against corruption is no excuse for flagrant due process violations and preventing people from mounting an adequate defense,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Given their track record of abuse, the Saudi authorities should make fundamental reforms to the justice system to ensure that the accused will not be railroaded in unfair legal proceedings.”

Calls were also made to the Saudi regime to release the political and other prisoners amid the coronavirus crisis. Social media has been inundated by pleas from relatives worried about the spread of the virus in the prisons and the lack of medical care. The sister of activist Mukhtar al-Hashimi (who was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2011) appealed to King Salman to release him amid the coronavirus pandemic. He suffers various ailments including diabetes, blood pressure and anemia.

As the coronavirus disease takes hold, the fate of more than 1000 native Bahrainis stranded in Iran is causing enormous anxiety to themselves and their families. For more than a month they have been waiting help from the khalifi regime but it has consistently refused to do what other governments have done to their citizens. The Bahrainis have been on a visit to the holy city of Mashad in Iran to perform religious duties at the shrine of the eight Shia Muslim Imam Ali ibn Musa Al Rida. The spread of coronavirus led to the cancellation of flights to Iran. Five of those native Bahrainis have died and more are risk of succumbing to the disease. After pressures from other GCC countries, especially Oman, they allowed one flight with 165 people. Almost half of them were infected with Covit19 disease. They are quarantined in makeshift camps. Calls have been made to bring back the rest and accommodate them at the hotels at Huwar islands and other islands occupied by the khalifi senior figures. Daily appeals have been made by the stranded Bahrainis to the world to force the khalifi regime to allow them back, but to no avail.

Under intense pressure from the natives, the dictator ordered the release of hundreds of prisoners, mainly those jailed for common crimes. Scores of political prisoners were also released, most of whom with few weeks remaining of their full jail sentences. The khalifi dictator refuses to release the senior figures of the opposition some of whom are in their seventies. There are growing concerns for the health of these people. Human rights bodies insist on emptying the torture chambers without any condition. The main demand that the khalifi hereditary dictatorship must be replaced with modern statehood remains the main demand of the people.

Human rights campaigners have refused to relinquish the pressure on Huddersfield University over its controversial training course for Bahrain’s police force. Several former Bahraini detainees have testified that they had been tortured at the headquarters of the Royal Police Academy where Huddersfield University has been delivering a Masters course in Security Science. Vice chancellor, Prof Bob Cryan has been criticised by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) for his refusal to pull out of the country. Prof Cryan comments: “As you will know, we are one of a number of UK organisations and agencies who are assisting in this work… As we pointed out in our previous response to you, the delivery of this course is in line with the mission advocated by the UK Government’s Department of International Trade. Protesters have held several vigils at the University’s campus calling for it to stop training torturers. They accuse the University of abetting in these heinous crimes under false pretexts.

27 February 2020, US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) submitted a statement for the Congressional Record, addressing Bahrain’s crackdown on peaceful protestors. In his statement, Senator Wyden expressed his concerns regarding Bahrain’s ruling monarchy’s actions against peaceful protests. He recalls when, nine years ago, protestors were being forcefully arrested by the hundreds and killed by the dozens. He pointed to the Bahraini government’s failure to hold its leaders accountable and its failure to uphold reforms.  The Senator acknowledges Bahrain as an ally to the U.S.; however, he still holds them responsible and accountable for the stress they have caused their people. He reprimands the Obama administration for allowing Bahrain to treat peaceful protesters with such severity. Senator Wyden highlights the hypocrisy of the Trump administration when the topic of human rights is discussed on the floor.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

18th March 2020 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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