Twenty six more Bahraini protesters were sent to jail to serve sentences from 5 to 15 years for involvement in recent uprisings, offenses that are essentially exercises of freedom of speech and assembly.
This is only the latest incident where Shiite political activists have been imprisoned unjustly. Last week, 20 medical professionals were sentenced 10 to 15 years in prison for the crime of treating as patients protesters who had injured as a result of government repression. Three days prior to that, some 46 Shiite protesters were sentenced to lengthy prison terms after clashes amid a by-election boycott.
The authoritarian government of Bahrain dismissed claims that these activists had been arrested and imprisoned for protesting, instead claiming that they attempted to murder and kidnap police, and had engaged in so-called “terrorist” violence. Such unlikely assertions are typical among dictatorial regimes that rely on US support.
One of those convicted, named by the court as Moh’d Habib Al Safaf, was accused of using speeches at demonstrations to instigate harm against police. Similarly, Ayat al-Qurmuzi, a poet and student, was sentenced last week to a year in jail for inciting hatred against the royal family by reading her work at a pro-democracy rally.
Another 14 people were sentenced for allegedly promoting the overthrow of the government and changes to the political system by use of force and other “illegal means” that include holding rallies and calling for strikes during working hours.
Many of those on trial had been arrested without a judicial warrant, held for weeks without access to their families or lawyers, and in some cases didn’t even meet their attorneys until they appeared in court for the sentencing. Many also allege abuse and torture while in detention.
The Bahraini government has still declined to comment on accusations by detained activists that a princess in the royal family was engaged in systematic torture which included beatings with sticks and rubber hoses, and giving repeated electric shocks to the face with a cable.
Numerous detailed reports, along with State Department diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, have evidenced widespread torture and abuse at the hands of the Khalifa regime. Despite the ongoing brutality, the Obama administration has repeatedly reaffirmed US support for the regime.