“They demand an end to the political crackdown. They are protesting against the unfair trial they faced and they want the release of all prisoners of conscience,” said Mohammed al-Mascati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.
Opposition activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, was “hospitalized” after riot police “fired tear gas Monday on detainees on hunger strike in one of the cells,” he told AFP.
An Independent Commission of Inquiry reported in November that prisoners had been tortured and called on Bahrain’s authorities to review the sentences of political detainees:
The government, under outside pressure to implement the recommendations, has said a judicial panel will review some sentences. But they have not questioned the military verdict against the 21 protest leaders, who have the right to take the case to the cassation court, the highest appeal court. A government official expressed hope some of the jailed protest leaders would be freed but said others had planned an Islamist coup.
“I’m hopeful for not necessarily all of them, but at least some of them,” said Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, a senior adviser at the Information Affairs Authority. “There are those in prison who called for a restructuring of the country’s institutions, for a full-blown revolution and who called for an Islamic republic using non-peaceful methods.”
Contrary to the regime’s claims, most independent analysts have noted that the leading opposition Coalition for a Republic – comprising Al-Haq, Wafa and the Freedom Movement – did not call for Islamic rule but for democratic reform.
The decision by the Obama Administration to move forward with a proposed arms sale to Bahrain has been criticized by several human rights and international organizations. News of the newly-proposed arms sale surfaced last week surrounded by controversy due to its lack of transparency and explanation.
Freedom House released a statement raising concerns about the message the U.S. is sending to the Bahraini regime and the international community. President of Freedom House David Kramer said that the U.S “should not consider any arms sale” taking into account the absence of serious reform and continued human rights abuses. “By breaking up the sale of these items into small packages, the Administration is sidestepping the important process of Congressional oversight and public disclosure,” said Charles W. Dunne, director for Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House. ….
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) called for transparency regarding the contents of the sale and called the sale “unnecessary.” Chief Policy Officer Hans Hogrefe said the sale of arms at this time is sending the message “that the U.S. will continue to help the Government of Bahrain no matter what it does to its citizens.” ……
Human Rights First demanded an explanation of “what’s behind” the sale and called on the U.S. to “condemn the ongoing crackdown” as the 1 year anniversary of the unrest approaches. …Just Foreign Policy sent an email alert calling for action against the proposed sale.