STATEMENTS

70 months for Saudi women activists; MPs demand investigating Patel

The Saudi regime has sentenced several women activists to jail terms of 70 months for their role in leading the protest against the driving ban imposed on women until 18 months ago. Lujain Al Hathloul, Naseema Al Sadah, Nouf Abdul Aziz and Samar Badawi have been in detention for two and  half years and were subjected to various forms of torture including sexual assault. Earlier this month the Saudi regime charged them with terrorism crimes, a claim ridiculed by human rights bodies. Under intense media pressure, the notorious Mohammad bin Salman was forced to release them, so his team imposed the sentence as a face-saving way out of the quagmire. The decision also included the deduction of two years and eight months and the women are expected to be released in the next two months. Another woman prisoner, Mia Al Zahrani has also been given 70 months jail sentence. United Nations human rights experts have called the charges against her spurious, and along with leading rights groups and lawmakers in the United States and Europe have called for their release.

Another victim of Saudi regime is cleric Bader Hilal Al Talib who has confirmed that his death sentence has been commuted to a prison term. He was arrested arbitrarily in December 2016. Also political detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani has been on hunger stike at al-Ha’ir Prison in Riyadh since 19th December. He is protesting the lack of family contacts and denial of access to books and essential medication. He is a founding member of Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association and is serving a 10-year prison sentence for his activism.

The Saudi Islamic affairs minister confirmed that many imams were fired in recent weeks after failing to follow a ministry directive to warn citizens against the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideology. On 22nd December Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz al-Sheikh told Al Arabiya that “The reports of several imams being fired is true. This is due to their failure to implement the ministry’s directives in publishing a statement from the Senior Religious Scholars Council commenting and explaining to people the dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group,” al-Sheikh said. “There is no doubt that their termination does not mean that they are from the Brotherhood or supporters of this ideology, but rather it is a regulatory procedure of the ministry to those who do not implement directives or were slow in implementing it would be dispensed with and are replaced by those who are prepared and those who meet the conditions,” he added.

On 17th December six Members of Parliament wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to investigate his Home Secretary after visiting a prison in Bahrain notorious for torture and abuse. They said: In light of serious human rights concerns, we are writing to condemn Home Secretary Priti Patel’s visit to the General Directorate of Muharraq Police in Bahrain on 6 December, and to urge for an investigation into the human rights due diligence, or lack thereof, that took place before this visit occurred.

We are disturbed to learn that, despite government’ knowledge of abuses at Muharraq Police and the Home Office’s decision to grant asylum to Yusuf al Jamri on the basis that he was subject to torture at the site, Priti Patel toured the site and praised Bahrain’s “progress to achieve common interests”. We are further concerned that the British Ambassador to Bahrain, Roderick Drummond, accompanied the Home Secretary on her visit to Muharraq, raising serious concerns about his judgement and his failure to advise against this due to the controversy of the location.

We condemn the visit to Muharraq Police, request an urgent investigation into the human rights due diligence carried out and into Home Secretary’s past PR or Consultancy links to the Bahraini government.

The signatories are: four Labour MPs; Layla Moran, Andrew Gwyenn, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Andy Slaughter, a Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Scriven and an MP from the Scottish National Party, Brenden O’Hara

On the sixth anniversary of the illegal detention of Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary General of Al Wefaq Society, several marches were held calling for his immediate and unconditional release. He was falsely accused of collaborating with neighbouring Qatar, in reference to his involvement with efforts to diffuse the situation in Bahrain in the first month of the Revolution that had eruupted on 14th February 2011.  Calls were made worldwide for Sheikh Ali Salman’s release as well as other political prisoners detained for their peaceful political activism.

Bahraini woman political prisoner, Zakiya Al Barbouri has described the predicament of women prisoners who have refused to receive their meals last Saturday. She said they were protesting several issues: the lack of quality and cleanliness of the food, the ill-treatment by khalifi torturers, the use of family contacts as a weapon against detainees, the lack of medical care and the denial of medicine.

The son of the renowned lamenter and orator, Mahdi Sahwan has been detained and remanded in custody for a week. Mutahhar Sahwan is being targeted in revenge for his father’s role as a popular orator who has campaigned against khalifi oppression. The father was first arrested in the eighties and was repeatedly detained.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

30the December 2021(info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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