HRW: Bahrain’s Revolving Prison Doors for Peaceful Activists Make it Clear that It Is Hardly Serious about Changing Its Ways

2015-07-21 - 9:41 م

Bahrain Mirror: Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the Bahraini authorities to immediately release the political activist Ebrahim Sharif, who was arrested on July 11, 2015, in connection with a speech in which he peacefully criticized the government and called for political reform. HRW also said that the United States should reverse its June 29 decision to lift restrictions on arms sales to Bahrain.

In a statement issued on Thursday (July 16, 2015), the organization indicated that the Bahraini authorities had released Sharif, secretary-general of the National Democratic Action Society, on June 19, nine months before he completed a 5-year sentence. Less than 48 hours after the June 29 announcement, though, Bahraini authorities arrested Majeed Milad, a senior member of the political association Al-Wefaq, and charged him with calling for illegal protests. He remains in detention and on trial.

"Bahrain's revolving prison doors for peaceful activists make it clear that it is hardly serious about changing its repressive ways," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Unless Bahrain immediately and unconditionally frees Sharif and Milad, the US should reverse the decision to lift restrictions on arms sales to Bahrain."

"The Obama administration said when it lifted the arms restrictions that authorities there had taken steps ‘conducive to reform and reconciliation' referencing the release of unnamed political prisoners," the organization further stated.

An Interior Ministry statement after Sharif was re-arrested said that Sharif had encouraged the overthrow of the government and "incited hatred" in a July 10 speech. HRW reviewed the speech and found it consisted solely of peaceful criticism of the government and calls for political reform.

On July 13, authorities announced that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had pardoned the prominent the human rights activist Nabeel Rajab for health reasons. On May 15, a court of appeal had upheld his six-month sentence for "offending national institutions" after he criticized the government on social media.

The statement pointed out that the US government had made repeated calls for his release, and on June 13, the United Kingdom government expressed its "concern" at the decision to uphold his conviction and called on Bahrain to respect freedom of expression. On July 9, the European Parliament adopted an emergency resolution on the rights situation in Bahrain and on Rajab's case in particular. Rajab may still face charges that relate to other critical comments he made on social media.

Sharif faces a maximum 10-year jail sentence under article 160 of Bahrain's penal code if convicted of inciting overthrow of the government. He was one of 21 defendants Bahraini authorities whom the court found guilty of attempting to change the constitution and monarchical system "by force," saying that "force" does not necessarily entail "the use of weapons; rather force may be exercised in other actions, such as organizing and leading popular demonstrations as a tool to pressure the government."

Sharif had been eligible for release in January under article 349 of Bahrain's code of criminal procedure.

In the statement, Stork concluded that "Sharif's fate is yet again in the hands of a justice system that labels its opponents and critics terrorists. Rajab's release should not be used as an excuse to justify resuming arms sales to Bahrain while Sharif and others are still languishing in Bahraini jails."

The Arabic Issue 

التعليقات المنشورة لا تعبر بالضرورة عن رأي الموقع

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