11-year-old Ali Hassan has been released after spending several weeks in prison in Bahrain. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) says that Hassan, who had to take his school exams while in jail, is one of the youngest to be detained during the pro-democracy uprising.
According to Al Jazeera, he was detained on May 13 near his home in the capital Manama by plainclothes officers and charged with “joining an illegal gathering.” Activists contended that he had simply been “playing the streets”; the Bahraini government took a very different view:
Bahrain’s chief prosecutor for juveniles, Noura Al-Khalifa, said in a statement on Sunday that Hasan was arrested on May 14 while blocking a street outside Manama with garbage containers and wood planks.
She said he pleaded guilty, admitting that he blocked the road repeatedly after police would clear the blockade, and that he was arrested on his third attempt to shut the road.
She claimed he confessed to have done that after a man accused of stirring trouble gave him and some of his friends three dinars, or about $8.
Khalifa only said that Hassan would be given the “sentence of a juvenile.”
As al-Khawaja write on her Angry Arabiya Twitter feed, it has not been uncommon for Baharaini teenagers and children to be arrested and imprisoned, including 15-year-old S. Mohd Al-Abbar, 17-year-old Mansoor and 17-year-old Ahmed who was shot in the eye with pellets.
Since February of 2011, the Gulf island kingdom has been unsettled by protests, mostly among its Shi’ite majority population who have long described discrimination under the Sunni monarchy. Bahrain houses the US Army’s Fifth Fleet and is a US ally. American companies have recently began to sell arms to Bahrain again after suspending sales following last year’s protests, the arrest of hundreds, the imposition of martial law for months and a request for troops from Saudi Arabia to intervene.
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