STATEMENTS

Political prisoners could die of COVID19 in Bahraini & Saudi jails

On 10th April US Senators Christopher Murphy, Marco Rubio and 15 other senators told Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and other repressive regimes not to use prisoners “as bargaining chips” during the #COVID19 crisis, in a powerful bipartisan call to release political prisoners “on humanitarian grounds”. In a letter to US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo they said: We urge you to publicly call for the release of American and political prisoners locked up abroad on baseless charges and raise their cases with your counterparts.  This is not the time for those regimes to use people’s lives as bargaining chips, it is time to provide humanitarian relief as we face the blocae threat of COVID-19”. A similar call was made by UK MPs. On 9th April Brendan O’Hara the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf, wrote to the Bahraini ambassador supporting the 20+ Human Rights groups who have called for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners currently at risk from COVID-19 in Bahraini jails.

On 9th April Reuters dispatched a long news story about the predicament of Bahraini political prisoners inside the khalifi torture chambers. It said: “Western-allied Bahrain has come under pressure from human rights organisations over prison conditions including overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of medical care. In common with other countries in the Middle East and beyond, it has freed some prisoners considered at risk, such as pregnant women, in response to the epidemic. The country has recorded more than 800 COVID-19 cases with five deaths. But the around 1,500 freed so far exclude individuals jailed on national security grounds.Rights groups including Amnesty International last week jointly called Bahraini authorities to release those who “peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of expression”, especially elderly prisoners or those with existing health conditions. “The authorities don’t like to be seen to bend to political pressure,” said Marc Owen Jones of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.

On 19th April The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called on Bahraini authorities to immediately stop retaliating against imprisoned journalist Mahmoud al-Jaziri for reporting on conditions inside Bahraini prisons and should free all journalists imprisoned for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Al-Jaziri, who according to CPJ research has been imprisoned since December 2015 and is serving a 15-year prison sentence on charges of belonging to a terrorist group, recorded an audio clip in which he disputed reports that Bahraini authorities had taken measures to protect prisoners from the spread of COVID-19 and that in-person family visits for prisoners have been replaced by video calls.

Khalifi torturers have revenged from political prisoners who contradicted the assertion by regime’s human rights GANGO that jail conditions were good. Hussain Ali, Hassan Atiya and Hussain Al Jaziri are being punished in various ways. Families are fearful for their children as coronavirus began to spread in jails.

Prominent Saudi reformer Abdullah al-Hamid, 69, is in a coma after suffering a stroke last week in prison. He was moved from prison to intensive care when his condition deteriorated. Calls have been made for his immediate release along with all political prisoners) and provide him with the necessary medical care.

On 8th April, Reprieve issued a statement about executions in Saudi Arabia. It said: On April 8, 2020, Saudi Arabia carried out the 800th execution since 2015, in the reign of King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The rate of executions has doubled under his rule. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said the Kingdom intends to “minimise” the number of executions. This latest grim milestone shows that the opposite is in fact the case.” Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve, said: “For all the rhetoric of reform and modernisation, Saudi Arabia is still a country where speaking out against the King can get you killed. In the run-up to the G20 summit in Riyadh in November, the Kingdom’s western partners must demand an end to the execution of children and political opponents, otherwise they risk tacitly endorsing these flagrant violations of international law.”

Calls have also been made to UAE authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Dr Nasser bin Ghaith after his sharp health deterioration over the past few days. Dr bin Ghaith has recently suffered from hypertension as he was left without medical care while in prison, making him more vulnerable to the COVID19. He is serving a 10-year sentence for riticizing the UAE in comments posted on Twitter after a grossly unfair politically motivated trial.

Today marks six years since award-winning lawyer and activist Waleed Abulkhair was arrested in Saudi Arabia. Six years later, he is continuing to serve a 15-year prison sentence for his peaceful activism. A campaign to send messages of support to Waleed and call for his immediate release has been launched.

Yesterday, Saudi forces killed an innocent man who refused to leave his home in an area that MBS had designated for his Neom project. Abdul Rahim Al Huwaity from the village of “Khraiba in Northwest Saudi Arabia refused to leave his home and was shot dead by the security forces who wanted all inhabitants of the village to evacuate their homes. It was a cold-blooded murder of a man who clung to the only thing he owns in the oil-rich kingdom, his family home.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

15th April 2020 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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