Prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab has been removed from his cell to an unknown location, losing all contact with his family and lawyer, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights reported Wednesday.
In an appeal sent out by the human rights group, Rajab had reportedly witnessed prisoners at the central Jaw prison being tortured.
Rajab’s wife had received a phonecall from Rajab testifying on what he had witnessed in the prison. Shortly after, Rajab’s wife was told that her husband had been removed from his prison cell.
His lawyer, family and fellow activists have not been in contact with him since.
[…] On Wednesday, six Bahraini tweeters were sentenced to one year in jail each for insulting the King and “misusing the right of free expression.”
Torture in Bahraini prisons is very commonly used to force prisoners to sign confessions. In February of last year, leading political prisoners began refusing food after reporting systematic abuses in Bahrain’s jails, including beatings, torture and the use of tear gas.
Nabeel Rajab, who founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights in 2002, has been in custody since June 6 on charges of “public insults against plaintiffs,” the prosecution said in a statement at the time of his rearrest in June 2012.
The avid Twitter user has been charged with insulting the security forces, posting comments on Twitter deemed insulting to a government body and organizing peaceful protests.
His activism has given him the largest Twitter following in Bahrain, and the fourth largest in the Arab world.
Two Bahraini women activists have been beaten and threatened with electric shocks to sign confessions after being detained on terrorism charges, Yousif al-Muhafda of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said Thursday.
“During telephone calls, the women told their lawyers that they were beaten up by masked men. They were also threatened with electric shocks, but it did not amount to torture,” Muhafda told Al-Akhbar.
“The women were accused of planning to detonate something at the Formula One race after being arrested at the security checkpoint outside the circuit,” the Bahraini activist said, adding that there was no evidence to corroborate these allegations.
Rayhana al-Mosawi and Nafeesa al-Asfoor were arrested on 20 April 2013 from the Bahrain International Circuit where the Formula One race was taking place.
They are not allowed to see their family or their lawyers, the BCHR reported, and have been sentenced to 60 days in prison, after which another hearing will take place to determine their further detainment or release.
“The Bahraini forces threatened to detain their sons, as they are both mothers. They told them that they’d go to their schools and arrest them from there,” Muhafda said.
“This is the way it is. The Bahraini government turns activists into terrorists. This is the propaganda they use,” he added.
Bahraini forces intensified arrests of activists before and during the Formula One race as clashes between the pro-democracy groups and police lasted almost a week mid-April.
The crackdown on activists involved in the Formula One protests in Bahrain continued as forces raided and detained activists at dawn Wednesday.
International racing bodies responsible for scheduling the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix from April 19 to 21, 2013, have taken no steps to address human rights abuses that appear to be directly linked to the event. Bahraini security forces killed a protester during the 2012 Grand Prix and have increased their repressive actions in the lead-up to the 2013 race.
In recent weeks, security forces have conducted home raids in the vicinity of the race circuit and arbitrarily arrested and detained opposition figures. Protesters have indicated they will demonstrate against the Grand Prix, with the risk that the Bahraini authorities will use repressive measures to close down the protests.
Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Bahraini police had arrested 20 opposition activists, in a sign of rising political tension in the Gulf state before the Formula One Grand Prix on April 21.
The Bahrain government denied any arrests had taken place.
Bahrain, where the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, has been hit by unrest since pro-democracy protests broke out in early 2011.
Watched by millions around the world, the Grand Prix is the biggest sporting event hosted by the US-allied country and the government is hoping for a big turnout at this year’s event despite continuing violent unrest.
A jailed Bahraini rights activist who launched an open-ended hunger strike eight days ago after being denied visitation rights has published a letter explaining her actions.
Zainab al-Khawaja, who is serving a six-month prison sentence for “insulting” a police officer and participating in unsanctioned protests, began refusing food and water on March 17 after prison authorities prevented her from seeing her three-year-old daughter, Jude.
Authorities wanted to punish the political prisoner, she wrote, for refusing to be humiliated by wearing a jumpsuit.
“When I was placed in a cell with fourteen people – including two convicted murderers – and I was handed orange prison clothes, I knew I couldn’t put them on without having to swallow a little bit of my dignity,” Khawaja wrote.
“Not wearing the convicts’ clothes, because I have committed no crime, that became my small act of civil disobedience. Not letting me see my family and my three-year-old daughter, that has been their punishment,” she added. “That is why I am on hunger strike.”
In the letter, she wrote that her jailers told her they would allow her to see her child if she obeys their orders and wears the prison clothes. But she insists that if she obeys, “Jude won’t be seeing her mother, but a broken version of her.”
Khawaja’s father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, announced a hunger strike on March 18 in solidarity with his daughter, and is also refusing to wear prison garments. Abdulhadi, one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights activists, is serving a life sentence for “plotting against the state.”
“[Prison authorities] told them that if you want to have your rights, you have to wear this prison suit like a criminal so they can humiliate them,” Yousif al-Muhafda, deputy head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights who is close to the activists, told Al-Akhbar.
“They were arrested for speaking out [against the government],” Muhafda said, himself facing fresh criminal charges after being arrested at a protest on Saturday.
Muhafda said that a medic who examined Zainab three days ago warned that her blood sugar was dangerously low, and that chances are high should could soon fall into a coma.
Bahraini authorities have detained six people for allegedly defaming the country’s ruler on Twitter, according to the country’s public prosecutor’s office.
The six, who were not identified, join a growing list of anti-government activists caught up in an Internet crackdown by authorities in the Gulf nation.
Meanwhile, Arab interior ministers warned of the spread of extremism through social media networks at a security meeting in Riyadh Wednesday.
“Extremist thought… on social networks has resulted in a major increase in terrorist acts, political assassinations and sectarian conflicts,” Mohammed Kuman, head of the council of Arab interior ministers said in an opening speech.
The Bahraini prosecutor’s statement Wednesday said the activists, who were detained over the past couple of days, will be charged with misusing Twitter and insulting King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
The arrests come two days after a court acquitted rights activist Mohammed al-Jishi of spreading false news on Twitter. He is one of dozens to face charges for posting comments on social media.
Bahrain has detained thousands of activists who it frequently accused of “setting up terror groups to topple the regime” and spreading extremism.
Government forces have killed over 100 protesters and injured many more over the past two years.
Several hundred people called for the king of Bahrain to be held responsible for the killing of protesters during a funeral Tuesday for Mahmoud al-Jaziri, a 20-year-old man shot in the head with a tear gas canister, witnesses said.
“Mourners are chanting ‘Down with King Hamad [al-Khalifa]’ and ‘hold him responsible for all the protesters killed and all the crimes committed,” Yousif al-Muhafda, deputy head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, wrote on Twitter.
The procession took place on the tiny island of Nabi Saleh.
The interior ministry released Jaziri’s body Tuesday after holding him for 12 days despite his family’s pleas to bury him.
Graphic photos taken at a morgue earlier Tuesday showed marks of the skull fracture that led to Jaziri’s death.
Riot police shot the projectile directly at his head at close range during a protest on 14 February 2013 marking the two year anniversary of Bahrain’s uprising. He succumbed to his wounds one week later, on February 21. [++]
A Bahraini court on Thursday sentenced human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja to three months in jail for “insulting a police officer,” one day after initially acquitting her of the charge, state media and activists said.
The court on Wednesday had originally dismissed that case, but handed the activist a one month sentence for taking part in an “illegal gathering,” and a two-month sentence over another charge.
But Bahrain’s public prosecution office filed an appeal after Khawaja spent the rest of the day protesting outside the government’s Qudaibiya Palace calling on authorities to release the body of a protester recently killed by security forces, an activist close to her said.
“She was sending a message that the people are not afraid to be sent to jail,” Yousif al-Muhafda, deputy head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, told Al-Akhbar.
Muhafda said that Khawaja, who has been in and out of prison since Bahrain’s anti-government uprising erupted two years ago, told him she would boycott all future court hearings and meetings with the public prosecution office.
“She said the public prosecution and the courts and judges are tools to suppress the people and human rights defenders,” Muhafda added. “She said that these are just show trials. The sentencing has already been decided before they begin.”
Khawaja, who is widely known by her Twitter pseudonym Angry Arabiya, had previously served a one-month prison sentence last May, and two-month term in September and October over charges related to her activism.
She was arrested again last December during a visit to a hospital to check up on a young patient who had his jaw blown off by security forces.
She is the daughter of a leading human rights defender also behind bars. Her father, Hadi al-Khawaja, is serving a life sentence over charges of “plotting against the state.”
More than 80 people have been killed since the start of the uprising in February 2011.
A Saudi-led Gulf force entered the island in March 2011 to help crush the rebellion, but the country still witnesses almost daily protests. The small but strategic kingdom is home to US Fifth Fleet.
That’ll show ‘em.
Bahrain national dialogue talks began again on Sunday as two small parties came back to the table after a token protest against what they called street violence.
Last week saw the commemoration by the opposition in Bahrain of the second anniversary of its Arab Spring protests, demanding a move toward constitutional monarchy and a better deal for the country’s discriminated-against Shiite majority. Shiites say that they don’t get the good schooling, the good jobs, or political power commensurate with their majority status. The mainstream Shiite political party, al-Wifaq, agreed the previous weak to talks with the Sunni monarchy. Some activists were upset with Wifaq’s Sheikh Ali Salman for this move, worried that it gave too much legitimacy to the government’s hard line position.
The government cleverly demanded last week that all the civil groups involved in the negotiations condemn the use of violence. Wifaq declined to sign the statement unless it also condemned police violence against non-violent protesters. Wifaq’s refusal to sign led two Sunni reformist groups to withdraw from the negotiations.
On Thursday, police fired on protesters, killing a 16-year-old boy, and provoking further protests over his death. Later, a 20-year-old was also killed.
Amnesty International has adopted some 22 Bahrain activists as prisoners of conscience. The Bahrain regime, notorious for its arrest and torture of dissidents, denied that it holds any prisoners of conscience. (In fact, the government even charged physicians who had treated wounded protesters).
[…] Some civilian dissidents have been sentenced by military courts, which violates international law.
Abdul Ghani Al Khanjar, human rights and anti-torture activist who was jailed for 2 years, tells the story of how he went underground and is in hiding in the islands rather than risk re-arrest.
The US government has been relatively low-key in condemning Bahrain human rights violations. The government leases the US a naval base at Manama as the HQ of the Fifth Fleet, which provides security to Gulf oil exports (some 20% of the world’s total). Also, Washington worries about expansion of Iranian influence, and the Sunni monarchy’s claims that the Shiite protesters have Iran links may give the Obama administration pause. Finally, the Saudi government is a hawk on the Bahrain crackdown, and is influential with the US.
The regime’s heavy-handed tactics may have pushed some Bahrain Shiites toward radicalism. Last week, the Bahrain government announced that Kuwait had helped it crack a budding terrorist cell, with links to Lebanon’s Hizbullah and to Iraq and Iran. Most Bahrain Shiites are peaceful and the majority belongs to the Akhbari school of jurisprudence that rejects the authority of ayatollahs, so the regime’s attempt to tag all Shiites (some 60% of the population) with the radicalism of a few is pure propaganda.
Bahraini security forces have fired teargas, rubber bullets and birdshot at demonstrators hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails in street battles that left one teenager dead and dozens more people injured on the second anniversary of the country’s failed pro-democracy uprising.
The main opposition group, al-Wefaq, said 16-year-old Ali Ahmed Ibrahim Aljazeeri died from his injuries about an hour after being shot early in the morning in the village of Diya, near the capital Manama. “He was shot with three rounds from a birdshot gun and died of critical injuries to the upper body and lungs,” the group said. “Witnesses confirm he was posing no threat to any police officers at the time.”
The Yemeni President congratulated His Majesty on the success of the 21st Gulf Cup.
Gulf Daily News | His Majesty hails historic relations with Yemen