Four Shiite protesters who participated in the demonstrations that have occurred in the past two months in Bahrain have been sentenced to death. The New York Times reports that three other activists who were on the same trail on charges of killing two policemen last month have been sentenced to life in prison. The trial was held behind closed doors; the protesters’ lawyers have denied the charges.
The uprising against Bahrain’s Sunni-ruled government began two months ago. Protesters, opposition leaders and human rights activists numbering in the hundreds have been detained and arrested; at least 30 have been killed, four while in custody. Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa’s government declared martial law on March 15 and called in Saudi troops and tanks to crush the protesters, who had first congregated in the Pearl Square roundabout.
Says the New York Times:
Human rights activists in Bahrain voiced fears that the verdicts could generate a new wave of protests in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom. They also argued that the trial was rendered unfair by a series of legal abuses, including the arrest of one of the defendants’ lawyers, Mohammed al-Tajer, one of Bahrain’s most prominent attorneys. The suspects were also barred from meeting with their families, and the news media were not allowed to cover the trial.
“These verdicts will have a huge negative impact on the Bahraini society,” said Mohamad Maskati, who heads a human rights group in the kingdom. “We fear brutal violence in the days ahead. I am not optimistic at all — especially that there could be more similar verdicts in the near future.”
Other activists refused to talk, citing the wave of arrests that have swept the country in the past two months.
According to the Guardian, the last time Bahrain issued a death sentence was in in 2007; before that, only one person to die over the preceding three decades had been sentenced to death.
The US’s Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain.
Despite these glaring examples of human rights violations and violence towards its citizens, Bahrain’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Ali al-Khalifa — the former head of Bahrain’s National Security Agency (NSA), which has been accused of torture and other human rights abuses — will attend the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton tomorrow. Crown Prince al-Khalifa has already said he will not be attending the royal wedding, after many protested his presence while violence against protesters in Bahrain continues.
The pressure group Human Rights Watch alleges that in 2007 detainees in Bahrain suffered torture including electric shocks and beatings….
A Human Rights Watch report on torture in Bahrain found: “Since the end of 2007 officials again have used torture and ill-treatment, particularly during the interrogation of security suspects. Human Rights Watch’s conclusion is based on interviews with former detainees and others, as well as its review of government documents.
“Security officials appear to have utilised a specific repertoire of techniques against many of those arrested designed to inflict pain and elicit confessions. These techniques included the use of electro-shock devices, suspension in painful positions, beating the soles of the feet (falaka) and beatings of the head, torso, and limbs.
“Some detainees also reported that security officials had threatened to kill them or to rape them or members of their families.”
Yesterday, the UK’s foreign secretary, William Hague, said that it would be “‘unacceptable’” for Syria’s ambassador to the UK, Dr Sami Khiyami, the Syrian ambassador to the UK, to attend the royal wedding due to the Syrian government’s violence crackdown against protesters.
Surely it cannot be “acceptable” for the former head of a Bahraini government agency that tortures people to attend the royal wedding?
In another sign that Bahrain is clamping down on any citizens who engage in pro-democracy activities, seven trainee airline pilots have been suspended from a UK flying school the Oxford Aviation Academy, after they were seen attending a peaceful demonstration in London following their government’s crackdown against protesters. The Guardian reports that the students face questioning on returning home and fear that they will be tortured:
The trainees believe it is a direct consequence of their decision to protest outside the Bahraini embassy in London in late March and demand democratic reform of the Gulf state and an end to the killing of protesters. The trainee pilots said about 70 other Bahrainis on the course who did not attend have not been affected.
At least nine other Bahraini students studying in the UK have also had their scholarships revoked and been summoned to return to Bahrain after they were seen participating in pro-democracy protests in Manchester.
Previous Care2 Coverage
Photo 32-year-old Abdulridha Mohamed Hasan Buhamid who "suffered a fractured spine and severe brain injuries from high-velocity bullets fired at him as protesters approached security forces on Guloof Road near Pearl Roundabout on February 18" by Al Jazeera English