Bahrain (Tasnim) – A Bahraini court has upheld death sentences against three young people as the Al Khalifah regime presses ahead with its heavy-handed crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom. On Monday, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation found…
A former Kuwaiti lawmaker is facing at least 42 years and six months in prison on various convictions that include posting on Twitter comments deemed by the authorities insulting to the neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
On 22 December, a court of appeal convicted Abdulhameed Dashti in absentia of insulting Saudi Arabia and sentenced him to ten years in prison, bringing his total jail term to 42.5 years. Dashti, who is currently in the UK for medical reasons, was stripped of his parliament seat to allow Kuwaiti authorities to prosecute him. Dashti also was convicted of prior charges of insulting religion, Kuwait’s Emir (the country’s ruler), and the judiciary.
Bahrainis have rallied to voice their anger at a visit by British Prime Minister Theresa May to the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom which has been cracking down on pro-democracy protests for years.
The demonstrators took to the streets in the island village of Sitra on Wednesday evening to condemn London’s support for the Manama regime, stomping on a Union Jack.
Accused Authorities of Online Surveillance
Bahraini authorities have charged a prominent human rights lawyer with offenses that violate his right to free expression.
Mohamed al-Tajer, who has defended opposition figures and rights activists, told Human Rights Watch that a public prosecutor brought three charges against him on November 10, 2016: insulting government institutions, inciting hatred of a religious sect, and misusing a telecommunications appliance. In a private WhatsApp voice message that public prosecutors cited in support of the charges, al-Tajer says, “It’s clear that there’s a team in the public prosecution and Cybercrimes division whose only job is to sit at computers and intercept every word about Sunnis, Saudi Arabia, hatred of the regime, or insults against the king.”
“Bahraini authorities have targeted journalists, activists, clerics, and politicians for peaceful dissent in the last few months, so it was only a matter of time before they came for the lawyers,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Al-Tajer is facing charges because he stated the obvious: Bahraini authorities are snooping on their citizens and anyone who steps out of line online faces jail time.”
Leading Activist Said Trip Could ‘Whitewash’ Government Abuses
Bahraini authorities have charged a prominent political activist with “inciting hatred of the political system” after he criticized Bahrain’s government and the November 8 to 11, 2016, visit to Bahrain by Britain’s Prince Charles. The charge against Ebrahim Sharif, former leader of the National Democratic Action Society, carries a prison term of up to three years and is a clear violation of his right to free expression.
On November 11, an Associated Press article reported that the Prince of Wales had made a state visit to Bahrain, part of a seven-day tour of the Gulf undertaken at the request of the British government. The article quotes Sharif expressing concerns that the visit could “whitewash” Bahrain’s human rights situation and the government’s “absolute power.” The Bahrain News Agency said in a November 13 statement that Sharif, had “defamed Bahrain’s constitutional system,” even though Bahrain’s 2002 constitution states that “everyone has the right to express his opinion and publish it by word of mouth.”
The Government must ensure that the UK Royal Family raise the issue of torture and the death penalty when they visit Bahrain in the coming week, human rights organization Reprieve has said.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are due to visit Bahrain this coming week (7-11th). The Government has said the trip will “strengthen the UK’s warm bilateral relations” with the country, among others in the region.
The visit comes amid growing concerns for an innocent man who faces execution in Bahrain, after he was tortured into a forced ‘confession.’ Mohammed Ramadan, a policeman and a father of three, was arrested in 2014 after he attended a protest. He was forced to give statements that he later recanted. His ‘confession’ was subsequently used as the basis for his conviction and death sentence.
While the use of successful sporting events is a persuasive approach to international relations, it is limited in its ability to disguise Bahrain’s true nature.
On Friday, September 23, the inaugural combat sports event entitled Brave Combat Federation (BCF) is taking place in Khalifa Sports City in Isa Town, Bahrain. The event, which features a headlining bout between Iraq’s Rami Aziz and Jordan’s Abdulkareem Selwady, represents the small Island kingdom’s attempt to become a significant player in the world of mixed martial arts. However, it also represents an attempt at sports diplomacy to distract international stakeholders from ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain.
Researchers have identified a Canadian company at the center of a small Arab nation’s online censorship system – a finding that sits awkwardly with Ottawa officials’ public support for digital freedoms.
Specialists from internet watchdog Citizen Lab said in a report published Wednesday that web filtering firm Netsweeper Inc. is helping block news and opposition websites in Bahrain, a Persian Gulf Arab monarchy which has been wracked by unrest since pro-democracy protests were stifled there in 2011.
Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert said the discovery undermines Canadian leaders’ forceful condemnations of online censorship.
Stop Licensing Reporters for Foreign Media
A Bahrain prosecutor on July 17, 2016, charged a correspondent for a French media outlet with violating the country’s licensing law for journalists, Human Rights Watch said today. The criminal charges against the journalist, Nazeeha Saeed, who has covered Bahrain’s domestic unrest for France 24 since 2009, violate her right to free expression and further undermines media freedom in Bahrain.
The authorities charged Saeed with working for foreign media without a license. United Nations human rights experts have stated that state licensing of journalists inherently violates freedom of expression. Saeed is also one of 23 people subjected to travel bans since the start of June. They include human rights lawyers and activists, trade union leaders, teachers’ and nurses’ representatives, and the president of the Bahrain chapter of Transparency International.
Six others were handed 10 years in jail on Thursday each for their role in the unrest, General Prosecutor Ahmed al-Hammadi said.
The nine were tried for attempted murder of police officers, possessing explosives and participating in clashes in March 2014, Hammadi said, AFP reported.
Bahrain last month sentenced eight people to life in jail allegedly for “terrorism” and violence against security forces in January last year.
The tiny Persian Gulf state has been shaken by unrest since it quelled a popular uprising demanding reforms in 2011.
The kingdom, connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway, lies across the Persian Gulf from Iran and is home to the US Fifth Fleet.
Iran’s no democratic paradise, but Washington’s Saudi allies are even worse.