8 Bahraini Activists Sentenced to Life in Prison

Eight Shia activists were given life sentences in prison today, on the charges of plotting a coup to overthrow the ruling Sunni monarchy during anti-government protests earlier this year. 13 other activists and opposition leaders, including Ibrahim Sharif, the only Sunni Muslim among the defendants, were given sentences of between two to fifteen years. Seven of the sentences were given in absentia to defendants mostly thought to be in Britain including 28-year-old Ali Mushaima, whose father, opposition leader Hasan Mushaima, was among those given life sentences, says the New York Times.

Activists were quick to note that the harsh sentences are in exact contradiction to the Bahraini regime’s calls for dialogue:

“Is this the atmosphere for dialogue?” asked Khalil Marzooq , former MP and member of the Islamic National Accord Association (Wefaq) in excerpts of a speech he gave in Manama posted on his Facebook page.

Life sentences were also given to activists Abdulhady al-Khawaja and Abduljalil al-Singace for, says NPR, for attempting to overthrow the country’s 200-year-old monarchy and having connections to “a terrorist organization abroad.” According to the New York Times, on hearing their sentences, defendants “pumped fists in the air and shouted “peacefully” — a mantra from the protests — as guards dragged them away.” The accused can appeal within fifteen days, according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office.

According to Al Jazeera, al-Khawaja’s daughter Zainab was present in court and, on hearing the sentences, stood up and chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greater). She was “violently removed from court and arrested” and then released “after being charged with contempt of court and made to sign a pledge.” Earlier on her @angryarabiya Twitter feed, Zainab al-Khawaja had said that she was on her way to witness the sentencing of her father and other activists.

As Al Jazeera reports, Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, says that many are “unhappy” about the sentences:

“Abdulhady al-Khawaja is one of the most respected human rights activist in the whole Arab region, so people are very angry,” Rajab said.

“Hundreds of people have been brought up for charges in the past few days, and hundreds more are waiting to be tried.”

Abuljelil al-Singace has been imprisoned since August. Says Faraz Sanei, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, in the New York Times:

….the arrest of Mr. Singace, a member of Al Haq, a banned opposition movement, was “one of the catalysts for the protests that happened earlier this year. In fact many of the same people arrested in August are the ones who were arrested again and charged in this case. As a gesture of good will, the king released them while protests were ongoing, in February.”

Hasan Mushaima had been in custody previously on similar charges as he was again been accused of. In February, while in self-imposed exile, Mushaima had received a” royal pardon … aimed at calming protests in the kingdom”; he had returned to Bahrain following the pardon.

The defendants did not have access to lawyers and were held “incommunicado” with their condition unknown to their families for weeks. They were tried in the Court of National Safety which, says Sanei, is not a military court but is presided over by a military judge presides, though two civilian judges are also present. Sanei also says that “quite a few” of those tried have been subjected to torture while in detention.

Demonstrators had blocked roads with sand and debris and called for marches in protest. No violence was reported.

Shiite Muslims comprise about 70 percent of Bahrain’s population and have claimed “systematic discrimination such as being barred from top government and political posts,” says NPR. The Bahraini monarchy has limited the country’s Shiites from political and other participation out of fears that any such gains “could open new footholds for influence by Iran, a predominantly Shiite country.” Bahrain’s Shiite leaders have repeatedly denied they have ties to Iran and accused  “leaders of using the fears of Iranian string-pulling to wage crackdowns that have included hundreds of arrests and purges from jobs and universities.”

Bahrain houses the US army’s 5th fleet and is a US ally. Following protests beginning in February sparked by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, Bahrain’s king placed the country under emergency law until June 1. Last week, Bahraini crown prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa met with President Obama and spoke of “dialogue.” Bahraini human rights activists criticized the White House’s meeting with the Crown Prince, saying that it could “provide political cover for the ruling Khalifa family to continue its crackdown” against pro-democracy protesters.

Next week, 47 medical professionals — some of whom have said they have been tortured — will be tried for supporting the protests by providing medical care for injured Bahrainis injured after clashes with government forces.


Related Care2 Coverage

Police Let Bahraini Hunger Striker See Husband For 6 Minutes

Bahrain Sentences 20-Year-Old Poet Ayat al-Qurmezi to 1 Year in Prison

10,000 Protest in Bahrain; Were US Arms Used Against Protesters? (VIDEO)


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.


Yvette T.
Past Member 6 years ago

No one has the right to control the freedom of any person or being unless there is a direct physical threat taking place....We are all free according to Nature...why do we usurp Nature and consider ourselves to be higher than we are?

carlee trent
carlee trent6 years ago


Valarie S.
Valarie Snell6 years ago

good article

Yvonne S.
Yvonne S6 years ago

I hope they revert to using a link for the petitions to be signed because the "pop-up" box won't accept my postcode. This is getting very annoying now :(

Siusaidh C.
Susan C6 years ago

'Why should Americans care' Mark S asks?
How about because wrong is wrong?
How about because Bahrain is a US ally so your hands are bloody?

But no, Mark only cares about keeping out 'the wrong sort' of immigrants. If only the door to the Western Hemisphere had been shut in 1491.

Mark S.
Mark S6 years ago

Why should American's give a damn about this? Why should Americans be concerned about this at all? The major reason is what has happened in Australia and the U.K. As the democratic countries allow uncontrolled immigration into their countries by people who systematically breed in numbers allowing their cultural makeup to become majorities, people that don't wish to speak the native languages of the places they now inhabit, people who choose isolationism as their new homes, they now seek to impose their Sharia law life on those countries the inhabit while choosing not to respect the rule of law in those countries. The Australian Prime Minister gave the rest of the world a very stern warning three years ago. I heard him, but apparently not many others were listening. In the U.S. we have a government run post office losing billions of dollars in tax payer money. Their answer for recovery? Create a Muslim commemorative stamp that most Americans will refuse to purchase. I don't use the Post Office much any more but not because of Muslim commemorative stamps. I don't use it because I need my mail delivered to the correct address and delivered on time. Federal Express does that, UPS does that, both of which are private companies. Want to fix the post office, privatize it like they did in Germany. The United States wants to sell it's stock exchanges to foreign interests but won't consider cutting spending in any way. U.S. Congress won't consider fixing U.S Postal Problems. Congress w

Monica D.
Monica D6 years ago

This all sounds concerning.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

So terrible and unfair! Where's the justice? All that just for voicing their opinions and oppostion to a cruel regime. Thanks Kristina.

Beth M.
Beth M6 years ago

..Harsh beyond words..and the above comment says it all really. x

Daniel Meritt
Daniel Meritt6 years ago

The U.S. should be careful where they house their army. They should prepare to move. The armed forces are said to be used to help people where human rights are concerned. By housing forces in countries that have no respect for human rights, it's impossible for the U.S. to deny a hidden agenda in their warfare actions. After all, their intentions are obviously not about using their armed forces to help others, if they support governments that violate human rights on such a large scale.