STATEMENTS

Khalifi dictators expose Bahraini prisoners to Covid-19, Saudis triple VAT

Despite the spread of Covid-19 the khalifi regime continued the sham trials of native Bahraini activists. On 5th May five youths from the town of AbuQuwwa were dragged from torture cells to the khalifi “court” to be tried for participating in anti-regime peaceful protest. The show trial of Adnan Majed Adnan, Hussain Abdul Amir Radhi, Ahmad Essa Ibrahim, Abdulla Rashid Madan and Ahmad Yousuf Ahmad was adjourned despite their pleas of innocence and confirmation of their torture.

Meanwhile serious concerns have been raised following the removal of 60 detainees and several policemen for testing. They had shown symptoms of Covid-19. Families are fearful for their beloved children at the overcrowded khalifi torture cells. Total silence by the regime on this case has fueled more anxiety and anger.

A seminar to discuss the normalization of relations with Israel was ordered to stop half an hour after it had been launched in Manama. The online seminar was organized on 10th May by the Bahraini society against normalization (with Israel) and the Society of Bahraini Youth. Several activists from other Arab countries were scheduled to take part in the debate on the internet. An official of the khalifi regime called and ordered an immediate halt to the proceedings, threatening serious punishment if his orders were not implemented.

The dictatorial regime has undertaken the construction of one of the largest “concentration camps” in the region, adding more new buildings to the notorious Jau prison in the South of the country. Four new blocks have been added to the complex while old blocks 12-15 have been overhauled and prepared for more native Bahraini political prisoners. Despite this expansion and the release of those who had completed their jail terms over the past nine years, overcrowding remains a serious problem. The prison environment has consistently flouted the international rules especially the social distancing introduced by WHO since the eruption of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A new form of what appears to be “benign” treatment has been enforced in recent weeks. Those who resort to hunger strike to protest the disastrous medical, hygiene and overcrowding conditions have now been denied phone calls to their families. This is in lieu of face-to-face visits which were stopped to stop the Covid-19 spread. Twenty five prisoners of conscience who went on strike recently have been told by the most senior prison official to “commit suicide” before getting the medical care they have been calling for. These people are held at the old blocks 12, 13 and 14 as well as the two new blocks 22 and 23. Ayyoub Adel, a native Bahraini political prisoner has now spent four days on hunger strike demanding proper medical care and an end to punishment for those who present such a demand. Instead of heeding his call, torturers have forced him sign a new false testimony.

In Spain, Mr Joan Baldoví, a Member of Parliament, posed a series of questions relating to the Spanish government’s view and intention regarding the Government of Bahrain’s record of human rights violations and requesting a written response. He represents Coalició Compromís, anelectoral coalition in the Valencian Community. His questions queried the Spanish Government’s actions in relation to the plight of political prisoners, the precise diplomatic measures that have been undertaken and explicit condemnation of grave human rights violations. The government’s response was generalized, as it did not mention specific answers in relation to the questions Mr Baldoví had raised. It was a broad response to the Bahraini government’s human rights record referring to the Spanish Government’s involvement in the EU. It said that Spain was spearheading the human rights dialogue with Bahrain and its participation in the last Bahraini Universal Periodic Review.

On 9th May Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Saudi Arabian authorities had recently detained and are holding incommunicado Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, who had previously been netted in an anti-corruption drive and released in late 2017. Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, a son of late King Abdullah, was detained by security forces on March 27 while self-isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic at a family compound northeast of Riyadh.

The U.S. is removing four Patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia along with dozens of military personnel deployed following a series of attacks on the Saudi oil facilities last year, according to several U.S. officials. The attacks were linked to Saudi-led war on Yemen. It also emerged that serious U.S. threats prompted the Saudis  to de-escalate their oil price war with Russia. The incident reveals the dysfunction of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, where the increasingly blatant absence of mutual interests results in a strategic partnership kept afloat through ultimatums.

In an astonishing move, the Saudis have tripled the value-added tax on goods to 15 percent. The regime announced a slew of austerity measures to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and an oil-price rout and cutting a cost-of-living allowance for government workers. The steps taken to shore up revenue and rationalize spending are valued at about 100 billion riyals ($26.6 billion) in total, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. Ziad Daoud, Chief Emerging Market Economist at Bloomberg said: “Saudi Arabia’s economic model is broken. The government has failed to create fiscal space in recent years to counter the virus shock. Instead, it is sharply cutting spending and raising taxes at a time when the economy is experiencing unprecedented contraction. Its policy toolkit is dated, contributing to swings in growth instead of stability.”

Bahrain Freedom Movement

13th May 2020 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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