STATEMENTS

Calls to free Bahraini political prisoners; more persecutions by Saudi, UAE

For the past two weeks native Bahrainis have been protesting to demand the immediate and unconditional release of about 2000 political prisoners from khalifi jails. Last night protests were held in Duraz, Dar Kulaib, Hamala, Sitra, Sanabis, Karzakkan, Al Dair, Nuwaidrat, and Dar Kulaib. The regime has refused to heed the calls and sought to deceive the outside world with what it calls “alternative sentencing” for those whose jail sentences have been served almost completely. With few weeks or months remaining these political prisoners are forced to sign undertakings to give up their natural rights to express opinion, describe their torture experiences or take legal
actions against their torturers.
The UN Human Rights group for the Middle East and North Africa region have reiterated calls to release the political prisoners. They said: “We take note of the decision of the Bahraini authorities to release a number of #PrisonersOfConscience following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in prison, & we urge the State of #Bahrain to release all prisoners of conscience at heightened risk of the COVID-19 pandemic.” They also called for neutral investigation into the death in custody of a native political prisoner saying: “We regret the death of Abbas MalAllah in prison, and call for an impartial and independent investigation in his death, and a re-assessment of the health conditions in prisons to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.”
The tenth anniversaries of torturing to death of two political prisoners have been marked by their families. On 10th April 2011 Zakaria Al Ashiri died under torture. The following day Karim Fakhrawi lost his life in the same way. Images taken in the morgues show clearly how their bodies had been subjected to most horrific forms of torture. None of the torturers involved was brought to justice. The khalifi dictator has imposed a culture of impunity as he
clearly approved this horrible treatment of native Bahrainis. Today an earlier victim of khalifi brutality has been remembered. On 14th April 1965 Faisal Al Qassab had been mowed down by the British forces who were protecting the khalifis against an uprising by students that had erupted on 5th March 1965.
On 7th April Juvenile political prisoners at Bloc 17 of the Dry Dock prison staged an open hunger strike. More than 100 detainees have one basic demand; the cleansing of the water storage facilities after many of them had developed skin diseases. Families of political detainees at Blocs 12, 13 and 14 of the notorious Jau prison have complained that contacts with their jailed children had been stopped. Their worries are compounded by the spread of the Covid-19 disease among detainees.
In a Press release on 9th April Amnesty International said: “The Bahraini government and prison authorities have a clear duty to guarantee the right to health of those in detention and protect them from the risk of infection. They must not gamble with the lives of those in their custody. The authorities must ensure all prisoners are provided with face masks and adequate hygiene supplies, that they can keep physical distance and are tested regularly,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
On 8th April two MEPs Maria Arena and Hannah Neumann issued a joint statement on the 10th year of the imprisonment of human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. It said: “Today marks a sombre anniversary for human rights defenders and for all those promoting fundamental freedoms in Bahrain. This day 10 years ago, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life imprisonment. No country can justify the restriction of freedom of expression and assembly, and the jailing of defenders promoting universal human rights. Last month, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Al-Khawaja, as well as
other human rights defenders detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms.”
In a hearing held on 5th April 2021, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh sentenced internet activist Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan to 20 years in prison, followed by a 20-year travel ban after his release. The SCC is the terrorism court that Saudi Arabia established in 2008 to put on trial members of terrorist groups but has since been used to imprison human rights defenders and activists. The charges are related to his peaceful activities on Twitter which he used to post tweets that were expressing his views on citizens’ public affairs. On 12th March 2018, Al- Sadhan was arrested at the offices of the Saudi Red Crescent Society in Riyadh, where he works as an aid worker. The next hearing in the trial of human rights activist Mohammed al-Rabiah, scheduled to take place at the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) yesterday, has been postponed to Tuesday 20th April.
The UAE last month said Princess Latifa, daughter of Dubai’s ruler, Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktuoum was being cared for at home by family and medical professionals. The UN’s human rights office has repeatedly asked Dubai to provide “proof of life” for Latifa, a demand echoed by the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, and
other western governments. On Friday 7th April, the UN spokesperson Marta Hurtado told a briefing in Geneva that the UAE had not responded to its request or clarified the conditions in which Latifa. “We haven’t got any proof of life, and we would like one, one that is clear compelling evidence that she is alive. Our first concern of course is to be sure of that, that she is still alive,” Hurtado said. She added that the UN also planned to raise the case of Latifa’s older sister Shamsa, who was kidnapped in 2000 from the streets of Cambridge. Concerns over the fate of Latifa, 35, have grown after videos claimed her villa home had been “converted into a jail”.
Bahrain Freedom Movement,

14th April 2021 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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