Archive for category Bahrain
DUBAI – Bahrain’s top military court sentenced six men to death on Monday after convicting them of charges including plotting to assassinate the Gulf state’s armed forces chief, state media reported.
It was the first official mention of any plot against the life of Field Marshal Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, who is a member of the ruling family, but the Bahrain News Agency gave no further details of when or where it was alleged to have taken place.
Tiny but strategic Bahrain has been gripped by unrest for years as its Sunni royal family has resisted demands from its Shiite majority for a constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister.
A judicial source said that all six of those sentenced to death on Monday were Shiites.
BNA said that one of them was a serving soldier before his arrest and that all six were also stripped of their citizenship.
The court sentenced seven other defendants to seven-year jail terms and deprived them too of their citizenship. Five men were acquitted.
Only 10 of the defendants are in custody, BNA said. The other eight are on the run — either inside Bahrain or in Iran or Iraq.
Since crushing Shiite-led street protests in 2011, Bahraini authorities have cracked down on all dissent, banning both religious and secular opposition parties and jailing hundreds.
Human rights watchdogs say that counter-terrorism legislation has been abused to prosecute many peaceful opposition figures.
The United States has criticized Bahrain for its human rights record but the kingdom holds a strategic position just across the Gulf from Iran and provides the home base for the US Fifth Fleet.
Source: Middle East Online.
MANAMA – A Bahraini citizen convicted of “insulting the king” and stripped of his nationality has been deported to Iraq after serving a two-year jail sentence, Amnesty International said on Friday.
Ibrahim Karimi was released from the notorious Jaw prison on Monday and “deported to Iraq the next day”, Amnesty said in a report.
He had served a sentence of two years and one month for allegedly “insulting the king” of Bahrain as well as Saudi Arabia and its ruler, and for possession of a stun gun.
Karimi was sentenced in 2016 but his citizenship had been revoked by the Bahraini authorities more than three years earlier.
Amnesty said Karimi had been found guilty of “publicly inciting hatred and contempt against the regime” and of “publicly insulting the king”.
He was also convicted of “insulting Saudi Arabia and its king” in a tweet, following the deadly 2015 collapse of a massive construction crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca that killed more than 100 people.
Karimi has denied ownership of the twitter account.
Amnesty has described Karimi as a “prisoner of conscience”.
Authorities in Manama have stepped up prosecution of dissidents in recent months, granting military courts the right to try civilians for charges including terrorism as protests demanding an elected government in the Sunni-ruled monarchy near their seventh year.
Dozens of mostly Shiite protesters have been jailed and number of high-profile activists and clerics stripped of their citizenship since protests erupted in 2011.
Bahrain, a key ally of the United States and home to the US Fifth Fleet, accuses Shiite Iran of training “terrorist cells” that aim to overthrow the Bahraini government.
Iran denies the allegation.
Source: Middle East Online.
ANKARA – The foreign minister of Bahrain, one of the Arab countries to cut ties with Qatar amid a bitter row between the Gulf neighbors, will on Saturday visit Turkey which has close ties with Doha, the Turkish foreign ministry said
The announcement came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ratified on Friday a bill approved by Turkish lawmakers to deploy troops to a Turkish base in Qatar in a move seen as Ankara’s support to Doha.
Earlier this week Erdogan criticized the sanctions against Qatar, saying he intended to “develop” ties, but he was careful not to criticize Riyadh.
Turkey has close ties with Doha including in the energy sector, but it also maintains good relations with the other Gulf states.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa will meet with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu , as well as Erdogan to discuss the “latest developments in the region”, the ministry said in a statement.
A senior Turkish official said the Bahraini minister will spend four days in Istanbul.
Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and other states this week in cutting ties with Qatar over what they say is the emirate’s financing of extremist groups and its ties to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional arch-rival.
The Arab countries closed air, sea and land links with Qatar, barred the emirate’s planes from their airspace and ordered Qatari citizens out within 14 days.
The crisis escalated further on Friday after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain released a list of 59 Qatari and Doha-based people and entities linked to “terrorism”.
Source: Middle East Online.
Monday 16 January 2017
Protesters set abalze a city hall was set ablaze overnight in Bahrain, the government said Monday, as fresh violence erupted over the executions of three men convicted of a deadly bomb attack on police.
The fire in the building at Shamalia, south of the capital Manama, was eventually brought under control, said the interior ministry, without explicitly linking it to the executions.
“According to initial reports, the fire was intentional and the specialized services are taking the necessary measures,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.
The blaze came after three men were put to death by firing squad on Sunday over the bomb attack on police in 2014, sparking clashes between angry protesters and security forces.
“Sami Mushaima, Ali al-Singace and Abbas al-Samea were convicted of manufacturing and planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that were detonated remotely after luring first responders into the fatal ambush,” said a statement by Bahrain’s London Embassy.
Their executions were the first in the country since 2010. Rights campaigners said the three men were tortured into confessions.
Protests continued overnight, with dozens of men and women marching through the streets of Sanabes village chanting slogans against the Khalifa dynasty, according to witnesses.
Demonstrators tried to reach the main street of Sanabes, the hometown of the three executed men.
Sanabes is the closest village to the Pearl roundabout, the epicenter of a month-long uprising that the security forces crushed in mid-March 2011.
The square’s famous monument was razed to the ground after the protesters were driven out.
Protests turned violent overnight in several other villages, according to other witnesses who said police opened fire to disperse demonstrators, wounding several of them.
Bahrain’s authorities do not permit international news agencies to cover events independently.
The executions were criticized by international human rights groups, as well as Britain and the European Union.
Iran and the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah strongly condemned the executions.
Bahrain, which has been ruled by the Sunni Khalifa monarchy for more than two centuries, has a majority Shia population which has long complained of marginalization.
It has been rocked by sporadic unrest since the Gulf-backed security forces brutally crushed the Arab Spring-inspired uprising in 2011.
Source: Middle East Eye.
January 15, 2017
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bahrain on Sunday carried out its first executions since an Arab Spring uprising rocked the country in 2011, putting to death three men found guilty of a deadly bomb attack on police.
The executions of the Shiite men drew swift condemnation from human rights groups and sparked outrage among opponents of the Sunni-ruled government, who see the charges as politically motivated. Activists allege that testimony used against the condemned men was obtained through torture.
Bahrain’s public prosecution said the death sentences were carried out by firing squad. Photos shared by activists purporting to show the bodies of the men showed a tight grouping of multiple gunshot wounds to the heart.
The executions were the first in the U.S.-allied nation since 2010 and followed a spike in protests in solidarity with the convicted men. Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima and Ali al-Singace were found guilty in 2015 of killing two Bahraini policemen and an Emirati officer deployed to bolster the country’s security forces in a bomb attack the previous year. A court upheld their death sentences last Monday.
Bahrain is a tiny island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia that hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the waters around the Arabian Peninsula and is the naval counterweight to nearby Shiite powerhouse Iran.
Government forces crushed the 2011 uprising with help from allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but the country continues to face low-level unrest led by a majority Shiite population that feels marginalized by the Sunni monarchy.
Bahrain also maintains close ties to Britain, which is building a naval base of its own in the country. Over the past two and a half months, Prince Charles, Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have all paid visits to the island.
Johnson made a point of underscoring Britain’s opposition to the death penalty hours after the sentences were carried out. “The Bahraini authorities are fully aware of our position and I have raised the issue with the Bahraini government,” he said in a statement.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets Saturday in solidarity with the condemned men as rumors spread that their executions were imminent. Images shared on social media showed activists blocking roads with burning debris and hurling petrol bombs in clashes with police.
Nicholas McGeehan, a researcher who monitors Bahrain for Human Rights Watch, called the executions inflammatory and unjust as he urged the kingdom’s allies to “publicly and unequivocally condemn these killings.” Amnesty International deputy director Samah Hadid called the executions “a deeply regressive step.”
Protests and clashes continued Sunday despite a heavy presence of riot police deployed in predominantly Shiite areas. Witnesses said shops were shuttered in Daih, where the 2014 bombing happened. Garbage bins were seen overturned and set alight in the streets.
One police officer was wounded when several people shot at a police patrol in Bani Jamra, west of the capital Manama, the Interior Ministry said Sunday. It gave no further details. The Ashtar Brigade, a Shiite militant group that claimed the 2014 police attack and a number of other bombings in Bahrain, took responsibility for the attack on the police officer on social media. The Associated Press could not immediately verify the post, though it came in a forum often used by the group.
Iran, which supported the 2011 uprising but denies any role in the violence, condemned the executions. “The lack of transparency in the unfair trial of the three Bahraini citizens was confirmed by the international community, human rights and all popular bodies all around the world,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said in remarks carried by state-run media.
Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah also condemned the execution of the three men, calling it “a crime” and “extrajudicial killing” that would undermine any chance for a political solution in Bahrain.
The militant group, which has been critical of the Bahraini government’s crackdown on the Shiite uprising, said international silence toward what takes place in Bahrain must be met with the “largest solidarity campaign.”
Al-Samea and Mushaima alleged they were subjected to electric shocks, beatings, cigarette burns, sleep deprivation and sexual assault while in custody, Amnesty International reported in 2015. Al-Singace’s mother says her son was also tortured, according to British rights group Reprieve.
“It is nothing short of an outrage — and a disgraceful breach of international law — that Bahrain has gone ahead with these executions,” Reprieve director Maya Foa said. “The death sentences handed to Ali, Sami and Abbas were based on ‘confessions’ extracted through torture, and the trial an utter sham.”
Government officials did not respond to a request for comment Sunday on the torture allegations. Bahraini officials have previously said the government is opposed to any kind of mistreatment and has safeguards in place to prevent it.
Bahrain’s last execution was of a Bangladeshi man in 2010. A number of death sentences have been issued since then. The three put to death Sunday were the first who had held Bahraini citizenship executed since 1996, according to Reprieve, though they were technically stateless at the time of their deaths after being stripped of their citizenship when convicted.
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai and Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.
December 17, 2016
A senior Iranian military commander has threatened further wars of conquest after describing the recent collapse of the Syrian opposition in Aleppo as an “Islamic conquest”, as footage has appeared showing Syrian refugees attempting to evacuate the ravaged city being shot at by Iran-backed Shia jihadists.
In comments to local Iranian media, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Hossein Salami said: “It is now time for the Islamic conquests. After the liberation of Aleppo, Bahrain’s hopes will be realized and Yemen will be happy with the defeat of the enemies of Islam.”
The IRGC commander also said that “the people of Mosul will taste the taste of victory,” in reference to the ongoing Mosul operations.
The taste of “victory”, however, tasted of blood and terror in Aleppo as the Middle East correspondent for BuzzFeed News tweeted footage of what pro-Assad regime Iranian proxies were doing there.
Borzou Daragahi tweeted “This is what hell on earth looks like,” as video footage from the devastated city shows “hungry, freezing men, women and children” who are trying to evacuate Aleppo are fired upon by the Shia jihadists.
This footage was supported by further reports and footage from Syrian journalist Rami Jarrah. Jarrah’s footage shows witnesses recounting their stories of how their convoy that was travelling with the Red Cross was waylaid by the Assad regime.
As the men in the video are talking, they and a vast convoy of cars come under attack by Assad regime, creating panic as people try to escape.
Iran’s ’empire’ and ‘Shia Liberation Army’
Salami’s comments are not the first to emerge from within influential and powerful Iranian official circles.
In March 2015, Presidential Adviser Ali Younesi said that the Iraqi capital of Baghdad was now a “capital of the Iranian empire,” inflaming the Arab world and especially Iraqis who have felt Iran’s pervading and dominating influence in their country.
Last November, Iranian army Chief of Staff General Mohammed Bagheri said that his country would in all likelihood set up military bases in Yemen, Syria and other Arab countries.
Speaking to the state-run Mashregh news agency in August, retired IRGC General Mohammad Ali Falaki said that Iran had created a “Shia Liberation Army” under the command of IRGC Qods Force commander Brigadier-General Qassem Soleimani.
According to Falaki, the Shia Liberation Army was already active on three “fronts” in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Source: Middle East Monitor.
November 11, 2016
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla began wrapping up their trip to Bahrain on Friday, as a leader in the island’s secular opposition warned their visit could “whitewash” an ongoing crackdown on dissent.
Ebrahim Sharif of the Waad Party, who himself has been detained by the island’s Sunni rulers, said he hoped the Prince of Wales brought up human rights issues behind closed doors with leaders here. “The government may listen,” he told The Associated Press. “They need friends.”
Bahrain, a small island off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, put down Arab Spring protests in 2011 with the help of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The protests were backed by the Shiite majority and others, and were aimed at demanding more political freedoms from the ruling Al Khalifa family.
While low-level unrest persisted for years, things remained largely peaceful until April, when Bahrain’s military announced it was “ready to deal firmly and with determination with these sedition groups and their heads” after a gasoline bomb killed a police officer.
Since then, authorities suspended the country’s largest Shiite opposition group, Al-Wefaq, and doubled a prison sentence for its secretary-general, Sheikh Ali Salman. Famed activist Nabeel Rajab was imprisoned and now awaits sentencing on a charge of spreading “false news.” Zainab al-Khawaja, the daughter of well-known activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who himself is serving a life sentence over his role in the 2011 protests, was forced into exile.
Meanwhile, the country’s security forces have besieged a small town home to a Shiite cleric who had his citizenship stripped by the government earlier this year. On their visit, Prince Charles and Camilla have been kept far away from the island’s trouble areas. However, they visited the British Embassy on Thursday night, where black Shiite flags were visible as those inside enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
Sharif said Bahrain’s opposition was both “flexible and realistic,” wanting only power-sharing with the country’s monarchy. However, he said those demands had been greeted with travel bans and other harassment.
He warned Bahrain’s financial crisis, worsening as the price of oil remains low, could push things further into danger here. “Without reform, we are in a very bad situation,” he said.
June 14, 2016
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bahrain suspended the country’s largest Shiite opposition group in a surprise court hearing Tuesday, intensifying its crackdown on dissent five years after Arab Spring protests rocked the island kingdom.
The Al-Wefaq opposition group has been suspended before amid turmoil over the protests and lingering unrest. The small Shiite-majority island off the coast of Saudi Arabia is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, which has imprisoned several activists and deported others.
A statement from the Justice and Islamic Affairs Ministry carried on the state-run Bahrain News Agency accused Al-Wefaq of creating “a new generation that carries the spirit of hatred,” and of having links with “sectarian and extremist political parties that adopt terrorism.” It said a court in Manama ordered the party suspended and its funds frozen.
Abdulla al-Shamlawi, the lawyer who represented Al-Wefaq in court, denied all the allegations. He said he was served the court papers only Tuesday morning for the hearing and had to argue to be allowed to offer any sort of rebuttal. He said the complaint alleged Al-Wefaq had damaged Bahrain’s national security since its inception in 2001 and also included allegations about it causing unrest during the 2011 protests.
“It was out of the blue,” al-Shamlawi told The Associated Press. “They say Al-Wefaq is the sole danger to national security.” He said the court set an Oct. 6 hearing to decide whether to “liquidate” the party — meaning the island’s biggest opposition group could be entirely dismantled.
He said Al-Wefaq “presumably” would appeal the court’s ruling, though the order suspending the party would stand unless an appeals court acts to lift it. By late Tuesday afternoon, police had surrounded Al-Wefaq’s headquarters and took down its banners and posters while carrying away material inside, witnesses said.
In May, a Bahraini appeals court more than doubled a prison sentence for Al-Wefaq’s secretary-general, Sheikh Ali Salman. Salman now faces nine years behind bars, up from an earlier four, following his conviction last year on charges that included incitement and insulting the Interior Ministry.
Prosecutors meanwhile announced Tuesday that they’d launched investigations into three Shiite Islamist organizations and seized their assets on money-laundering allegations. The sudden court case and investigations came a day after authorities detained Nabeel Rajab, a prominent activist and the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
Rajab, whom King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa previously pardoned over health concerns, faces a charge of spreading “false news,” lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi said on Twitter. Al-Jishi did not respond to requests for comment.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “concerned about the re-arrest” of Rajab, his spokesman said. Ban “reiterates the right of people to the peaceful exercise of their freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Bahrain and everywhere,” Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
Zainab al-Khawaja, another prominent activist, fled to Denmark earlier this month after being released from prison, fearing she would be detained again. The 2011 demonstrations called for greater political freedoms on the island, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. The government crushed the protests with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Since then, the island has seen low-level unrest, protests and attacks on police. Other prominent opposition figures and human rights activists remain imprisoned. Some have been stripped of their citizenship and deported.
In a speech Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said at least 250 people lost their citizenship in Bahrain in recent years “because of their alleged disloyalty to the interests of the kingdom.”
Rights groups say Bahrain refused to allow activists to leave the country to attend the Geneva conference where al-Hussein spoke. The raids appear to have been timed to serve as a snub of the U.N. meeting.
Tuesday’s court decision shows Bahrain “is bulldozing its civil society,” said Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. “Bahrain is only reforming itself into a state of silence and terror,” al-Wadaei said in a statement.
May 31, 2016
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bahraini authorities have released prominent rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja on humanitarian grounds after two and a half months behind bars, her sister told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Zainab al-Khawaja is the daughter of well-known activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence over his role in Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011. Her sister Maryam confirmed her release.
A dual Danish-Bahraini citizen, she was detained on March 14 and faced three years in prison on charges related to her participation in anti-government protests, including tearing up pictures of Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry announced plans to release her earlier this month on account of her year-old son, who was allowed to stay with her in a special prison ward for new mothers.
June 11, 2016
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A prominent activist in Bahrain said early Saturday she left the tiny island kingdom after recently being freed from prison, the latest protester to go into exile five years after its Arab Spring demonstrations.
Zainab al-Khawaja is the daughter of well-known activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who himself is serving a life sentence over his role in the protests that saw the island’s Shiite majority and others demand more political freedom from its Sunni rulers.
In a series of messages on Twitter, al-Khawaja said she had left the country. Her family confirmed she left with two children to Denmark, where she also has citizenship. The “regime that thinks exile means moving us away from our land should know, we carry (hashtag)Bahrain in our hearts wherever we go,” she wrote.
Al-Khawaja was detained March 14 and faced three years in prison on charges related to her participation in anti-government protests, including tearing up pictures of Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. She was in prison with her infant son, Abdulhadi, prior to her release.
Al-Khawaja said Bahrain was preparing to file new charges against her that would have made her detention “indefinite.” Bahrain’s government and its state-run news agency did not immediately comment on al-Khawaja leaving the country.
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, crushed the 2011 protests after several weeks with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In the time since, the island has faced low-level unrest, protests and attacks on police.
Other prominent opposition figures and human-rights activists remain imprisoned. Some have had their citizenship stripped by the government and been deported.