20-Year Prison Sentences For Nine Bahraini Protesters
On Thursday, Bahrain sentenced nine people to 20 years in prison on charges of trying to murder a policeman, says the BBC. A well-known Shia cleric and opposition figure, Mohammed Habib al-Saffaf, was among those arrested. They were sentenced by the Lower National Safety Court, a special security court presided over by civil and military judges, that was set up in mid-March.
Last month, four Shia protesters were sentenced to death and three others to jail for life on charges of killing two policemen by running them over with cars during the protests. On Monday, seven anti-government protesters received sentences ranging from one to three years because of their participation in anti-government protests earlier this year. Amnesty International has condemned their sentences. Says Malcolm Smart, the group’s Middle East and north Africa director:
“These trials and convictions represent yet further evidence of the extent to which the rights to freedom of speech and assembly are now being denied in Bahrain.”
Since anti-government demonstrations began in February, four protesters have died in Bahraini police custody. 47 Bahraini medical workers — 23 doctors and 24 nurses — have also been imprisoned and charged with acting against the state for treating pro-democracy protesters injured in the demonstrations. They are to be tried in a military court on charges that are tantamount to saying they have committed treason against the government.
In his speech about the US’s policy in the Middle East on Thursday, President Obama stated that the US will “promote reform across the region, and … support transitions to democracy.” In regard to Bahrain — a longtime US ally where the US’s fifth naval fleet is stationed — Obama said (with some phrases highlighted in italics by me)
Bahrain is a longstanding partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law.
Nevertheless, we have insisted both publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and we will — and such steps will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. (Applause.) The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.
But how can you a dialogue when “parts of the peaceful opposition” have been executed?
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Previous Care2 Coverage
Photo of the Pearl Roundabout -- where Bahraini protesters assembled after the uprising in Egypt and which was demolished on March 18 by the government -- by Harold Laudeus.