Geneva - Bahrain authorities should immediately release opposition activists who have been detained for speaking out against government oppression, says the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. Despite recent progress in allowing freedom of expression, the organization says, Bahrain authorities continue to arbitrarily punish dissents without due process.
“Since July, 21 cases have been reported in which peaceful demonstrations were violently broken up by shooting live ammunition and tear gas canisters,” says Ihsan Adel, Euro-Med Monitor legal adviser. “In addition, 86 protesters have been detained, of whom 17 are minors. Our intelligence indicates these individuals have been tortured and denied a fair trial.”
Meanwhile, Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat has been closed for the second time on the pretext that it publishes information that divides the society and adversely affects the kingdom’s relations with other countries.
Euro-Med, an international human rights organization headquartered in Geneva, is calling on the Bahraini government to release the activists, including Majed Milad, a member of the Islamic National Society and former president for the Manama municipality council. Milad is waiting for a court hearing on October 27.
Milad was detained on July 1 after he gave a speech in an opposition gathering, in which he called for continuing peaceful protests. However, the prosecution accused him of inciting the public to break the law, particularly by agitating against inciting the regime. If convicted, he could face a penalty of two years in prison.
Another official of the Islamic National Society, Secretary-General Ali Suliman, was sentenced to four years in prison for “inciting people against the regime” and publicly inciting them to break the law and insult the minister of interior. The Bahraini police arrested him on December 21, just after his re-election as a secretary general of the society and a speech in which he called for political reform.
The Euro-Med Monitor has documented that the court did not allow Suliman’s defense lawyer to introduce evidence proving his client’s innocence, including records of the speeches in question. Instead, the court depended on a testimony of a police officer in who claimed that Suliman told a crowd that they “have a huge power inside you; all you have to do is wake that power up, I’m speaking about a military power.” Instead, the recording of the speech shows he actually said the opposite: “I don’t talk about military power.”
Suliman now is waiting for his trial to resume, without contact with his defense lawyers.
Still another activist, Ibrahim Al-Sharief, secretary general of the National Democratic Labor Society, was arrested after he gave a speech in memorial of Hussam Hadad, 16, who was killed by the Bahraini police. In his speech, Al-Sharief talked about the necessityof political reform in Bahrain. Although he renounced violence, the prosecution has charged him with agitating for forceful regime change. If convicted, Al-Sharief may face imprisonment for 10 years.
In 2011, Al-Sharief has sentenced to five years in prison for leading mass protests against the government, with the prosecution saying that the crime of encouraging forceful regime change includes organizing public protests to pressure the government. He received a royal pardon earlier this year and was released after nine months of prison time. However, Al-Sharief was re-arrested just one month later, with a hearing scheduled for November 12. He has complained of inhumane conditions during interrogation and in his cell.
“Bahraini authorities must take more serious and committed actions to protect human rights on their territory, starting with the immediate release of these and other political detainees, easing of restrictions on peaceful protests and permission for specialists in torture and forced disappearance to investigate conditions in Bahraini prisons,” says Adel.