Bahrain Roundup 2020: Death of Former Political Prisoners from Cancer, Coronavirus Won't Help Release of Prisoners

2021-01-10 - 1:52 ص

Bahrain Mirror (Roundup 2020): Ten years have passed since the imprisonment of thousands of citizens in Bahrain after the February 14, 2011 uprising which called for a democratic transition of power. Since then, the issue of prisoners remained undeveloped.

On January 22, 2020, the government approved the release of cancer patient prisoner Elias Al-Mulla, 29, who was arrested in 2012. Al-Mulla was sentenced to 15 years in prison over taking part in protests.

The joy of Al-Mulla's release didn't last, as the news of the death of Hameed Al-Khatem, 38, overshadowed the village of Samaheej and occupied bloggers in Bahrain. The prisoner of conscience died on January 31, 2020, two years after his release, noting that he had spent these years being treated for cancer.

Al-Khatem developed stomach cancer after being arrested and tortured in 2016, and served a one-year prison sentence over a charge related to blogging.

Another prisoner of conscience victim died only three days after Khatem's demise. Sayed Kadhem Sayed Abbas Al-Sehlawi, 24, died after struggling from cancer and failing to secure a trip to the US for treatment at the expense of local civil groups.

Al-Sehlawi was released on July 31, 2018 after cancer spread in his head as a result of medical negligence. This negligence did not allow detained patients to obtain the necessary medical care, which remains one of the main complaints of political prisoners held in Jaw and Dry Dock prisons. 

After the Coronavirus outbreak, the authorities released (March 5. 2020) Hajar Mansour from Isa Town Women's Detention Centre, where she was serving a 3-year jail term. Meanwhile, political prisoner Zakiya Barbouri, 30, remains behind bars.

On Thursday (March 12, 2020), King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa issued a royal decree pardoning 901 convicts "for humanitarian reasons amid the current circumstances", in reference to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The royal decree included only a few number of political prisoners. Human rights groups said they recorded the release of 155 prisoners over political cases.

Legal counsel Ibrahim Sarhan said "From 2011 to 2020, 33 special pardons were issued for 5,156 people." 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%."

Instead of increasing the number of releases, the Interior Ministry has taken measures that it said would prevent the spread of the virus among prisoners, including the cancellation of family visits and reduced contact between inmates and policemen.

Commenting on a video broadcast by Bahrain TV to promote precautionary measures, detained journalist Mahmoud Al-Jaziri responded by saying that there were no real precautionary measures and that the only measure was to deny prisoners contact with their families.

Under the alternative penalty law, the authorities released (June 9, 2020) human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who in turn called for an expansion of the law's list of beneficiaries. However, this didn't take place.

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