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Bahrain’s King Pardons Some Protesters, Trials Continue

Bahrain’s King Pardons Some Protesters, Trials Continue
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The island kingdom of Bahrain is a US ally and houses the US Navy’s 5th Fleet; this military partnership is one reason the US has not offered harsher criticism of Bahrain’s crackdown on protesters. In February, pro-democratic protesters, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, occupied the Pearl Roundabout in the capital of Manama in February. But after a month, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa imposed emergency law on the country in March and neighboring Saudi Arabia sent in troops to crush the protests. At least 32 were killed and many more detained and reportedly tortured while imprisoned including members of Bahrain’s national soccer team.

While the US and Western countries have called for political dialogue in Bahrain, they have stopped short of seriously pressuring Bahrain’s rulers and offering their support for the protests as in other countries. The West, says Al Jazeera , has also blamed Iran for “instigating its co-religionists in the small kingdom to cause dissent”; Bahrain’s Shia deny this claim.

The king of Bahrain, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, has announced that he will pardon some of those detained during the violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, Al Jazeera reports. In a televised speech on Sunday with the end of the fasting month of Ramadan approaching, the king said:

“We would like to emphasize that we do not anticipate putting everyone on trial. There are those who are charged with abusing us and senior officials in Bahrain, we today announce that we forgive them.

“Although I do not like to interfere in the course of justice, I would like to confirm that all the cases of civilians will have their verdicts issued by a civil court.”

The use of the security court, presided over by military and civilians judges, has been heavily criticized by rights groups, says the New York Times. Also on Sunday, a special security court resumed the trial of 20 doctors and nurses; the trial was adjourned until September 7, when the court will begin calling witnesses. More than 45 doctors and nurses who had treated injured protesters were arrested in total and accused of treason. Human rights groups, including Doctors Without Borders, have protested their arrests and reports of being tortured.

The Bahraini Health Professionals Association is documenting violations on the health profession in Bahrain; besides the harsh crackdown on medical professionals, injured patients in hospitals have also been attacked. A Facebook page has more information.

Human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja, who went on a hunger strike after her father, Aldulhadi al-Khawaja, and husband were arrested and imprisoned, describes the treatment of one detainee, Jaffar, who has been sentenced to two years in prison; this photo shows Jaffar with his four-year-old twin daughters, Fatima and Zainab.

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Photo of Manama's Salmaniya Hospital, where some of the detained doctors and nurses worked, by Conor McCabe

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8:46PM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

Pardoning protesters will not suffice the problem in Bahrain. The citizens want major reforms from the monarchy that means an elected reform with democratic laws and freedom.

12:43PM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

Very difficult situation. What would you have the King do, cede power to the Shia and effectively make Bahrain a colony of Iran?

On the other hand, the treatment of the Shia majority has been very repressive throughout the country's history, and should be improved. Friends and neighbors can help with that.

The Saudis and the U.S. have used their influence now and in the past to encourage the Monarchy to ease up on the repression and respect civil rights.

You can't just demand things from friends and allies either. Diplomacy is a delicate dance of give and take. Bahrain is in multiple dialogues with regional and international partners. Remember they have to live close to Iran, too, as well as the Saudis.

1:42PM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

I hope all the protestors gain freedom

5:35AM PDT on Aug 30, 2011

Our "Western"way of life and thinking is not the only path to happiness. Compared to e.g. Lybia and Syria, this country is quite modern. As long as we have financial interests in a country, we should not be so hypocritical as wanting to judge that same country differently from ourselves.

9:09PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

Marilyn L. put it well. : ) I will just add that I send many positive thoughts to all the protesters that they will enjoy a better life soon. Namaste

6:58PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

Sounds like a harsh life over there.

4:50PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

Overthrow all tyrants.

4:32PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

Please keep pardoning all those that peacefully protest.

2:29PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

"Some" is not enough.

12:05PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

I think living is hard in the middle east....Except of course the King! It's good to be king!

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