Releases in Coronavirus Times: Over 115 Prisoners Released, More to be Freed

2020-03-18 - 9:22 am

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): In the past two days, the Bahraini authorities have released nearly 115 political prisoners, according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, while Al-Wafaa Islamic Movement said it recorded the release of about 155 political prisoners between March 10 and 15.

Legal counsel Ibrahim Sarhan says that "the releases may continue until the end of this week in Bahrain," explaining that "the procedures for releases with the number to be released will take five or six days."

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa issued a royal decree pardoning 901 convicts "for humanitarian reasons and under the current circumstances."

Two batches of political prisoners have been released as well as a larger number of criminal prisoners.

"From 2011 to 2020, 33 special pardons were issued for 5,156 people," Sarhan says. He explained that "the lowest percentage (of these decrees) was made for political cases and cases related to freedom of opinion and expression, at 7.4%."

The New York Times attributed the mentioned term "current circumstances" in the pardon decree to fears about the coronavirus outbreak. In a report on the repercussions of the Coronavirus epidemic in the Middle East, it said, "the Gulf monarchy also released nearly 1,500 prisoners, around 900 of whom were pardoned. The move appeared aimed at preventing the virus from spreading inside detention facilities."

The remaining prison time of released prisoners varied. Some had only days, two or three months remaining of their prison terms, while others had five years or more left of their sentence.

Political prisoners in Bahrain suffer from overcrowded prisons. Jaw prison which has a capacity to hold no more than 2,145 prisoners (according to official reports) is now overcrowded with over 4,000 prisoners.

Prisoners suffer from deteriorating health conditions, with the spread of diseases among inmates  in recent years as well as ill-treatment and ongoing forms of restrictions.

Bahraini citizens are awaiting the next batches of released prisoners. Meanwhile, a large number of activists have demanded the release of all prisoners arrested on the grounds of the February 14 movement which demanded democracy and freedom of expression in the country. 

Arabic Version