Bahrain’s released political prisoners: The human stories behind the numbers

This statement was originally published on bahrainrights.org on 20 April 2021.

Ramadan is marked this year in Bahrain with a wave of releases of detainees who have spent long years in prisons. In light of the outbreak of the Coronavirus in prisons, and the number of infected inmates which has reached about 90 cases among the elderly and those with chronic diseases, the Bahraini authorities announced their intention to release 126 prisoners, then 73 others. Authorities stated that most of the inmates will spend the remainder of their sentence outside prison.

Late in the evening of 9 April 2021, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) documented the security authorities’ release of 40 political detainees. These releases were included in a list that the Public Prosecution declared within the framework of implementing the Alternative Penal Code.

Those released do not represent numbers only, but also individuals who participated in the political and civil space and in expressing popular demands as well. The releases included a number of detainees who represent a model of the forms and causes of the arrests that Bahrain witnessed after the protests in 2011.

Among the most prominent of those released is the activist Mohammed Jawad Parwiz (75 years), who spent nearly ten years in prison and is the uncle of the prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. The court sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment in a military trial that lacked the minimum elements of a fair trial, as part of a group of activists known as “Bahrain 13”. Despite his retrial in a civil court, the court upheld the verdict, on charges of plotting to overthrow the government and cooperating with terrorist organizations, which he denied. The text of what he said in front of the court stated, “I stand in your hands for trial and I confirm that I do not belong to a political or non-political party or association, but rather I do not consider myself to be a politician. I was among thousands of people who participated in peaceful marches calling for reform, and did not practice violence and had no relation with any organization and I have nothing to do with overthrowing the regime. The accusation that I am collecting funds for the organization is baseless.”

Parwiz, who is considered the oldest political prisoner, is known for his activism in the field of human rights in Bahrain and which began decades ago. He was interested in defending the rights of detainees, and he called for their release and the improvement of prison conditions. Parwiz was also active in participating in demonstrations and sit-ins demanding reforms, and he was calling for an end to practices that violated human rights, such as torture and poor conditions in prison and others. He was subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention more than once, and the security forces tortured him, and he was threatened and prosecuted. On 22 March 2011, he was arrested at a checkpoint where they asked him to get out of the car and then beat him, before taking him to the police station, blindfolded and handcuffed. Security forces tortured him for weeks, suspended, and electrocuted him, and forced him to stand for long periods. Prevented from communicating with his family and a lawyer, he remained under enforced disappearance for weeks, most of which were in solitary confinement. The activist Parwiz is still suffering from pain and complications as a result of torture. In addition, he suffers from other diseases that require continuous and permanent medical care, and since his arrest he has suffered setbacks in his health that required his hospitalization several times. The authorities began targeting him in the 1980s, as they worked to prevent him from obtaining a job in Bahrain, and he spent years of his life moving between the Gulf States to secure his livelihood. The authorities also targeted his family as his son, Hussein Parwiz, was arrested and tortured several times.

Among the most prominent of those also released was Sayed Kamel Al-Hashemi. On 9 April 2021, the security authorities released Sayed Al-Hashemi, who had been sentenced to 3 years in prison, of which he spent more than two and a half years. In 2016, a court sentenced cleric Al-Hashemi to three years in prison, after he published a comment on his “Instagram” account criticizing the government for arresting the preachers, but the verdict began in 2018. The Second High Criminal Court of Appeal had sentenced him to prison for a period of 3 years for the charges of “insulting the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, in a Friday sermon at a mosque in Barbar and Ma’atam in Bani Jamra,” and “inciting hatred against a sect.” The court sentenced him to two years in prison for the first charge and one year for the second charge.

How did it feel to be free for hours, only to be back behind bars? This is what happened with the activist Maytham Zuhair, who was released under the Alternative Penal Law. He was returned to Jaw Central Prison, due to an unjust in absentia ruling against him for 5 years in prison. About a year ago, on 20 February 2020, he was transferred to Al-Salmaniya Medical Complex, tied with chains. Zuhair is one of the victims of the peaceful dispersal of the sit-in in Diraz, sentenced to 12 years, and was serving his sentence in Jaw Prison, Building 21.

Behind the bars of the prisons, inmates spent their youth for simply expressing their demand for freedom in this country. A soldier who entered prison at the age of 25 was released today at the age of 34. The released Ali Jassem Al-Ghanimi was a policeman who sympathized with the victims of the protests, which led to his arrest and imprisonment. Al-Ghanimi became involved in the 2011 protests, calling for an end to violence by security forces against peaceful protesters. He was one of 124 soldiers to join the protests. In May 2011, authorities attacked a building in Bani Jamra and arrested Al-Ghanimi and others. In prison, he was subjected to torture, insults, and solitary confinement. The government charged him with gathering and inciting hatred against the regime, inciting the military, contacting TV channels, and being absent from work, and he was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment and dismissal from service.

The post Bahrain’s released political prisoners: The human stories behind the numbers appeared first on IFEX.

Source: MEDIA FEED

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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