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Bahrain

    July 01, 2013

    The Bahraini Cassation Court’s decision to uphold the convictions against two leaders of the Teachers Association is a charade and yet another example of the heavy price government critics pay in Bahrain for their views, Amnesty International said today.

    Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman, the former president and vice-president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association were sentenced to 10 and three years imprisonment respectively on September 2011 after they called a teachers strike. They were charged with halting the educational process, inciting hatred of the regime, attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force.

    “There hasn’t been a shred of evidence of either teachers using or advocating violence. The trials were marred by irregularities, based on spurious evidence and their sentences should be quashed,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    May 16, 2013

    The Bahraini authorities must immediately release five men sentenced to a year imprisonment for allegedly insulting the King of Bahrain in messages posted on Twitter, Amnesty International said.

    Lawyer Mahdi al-Basri, 25, was arrested following a police raid on his home in Karrana, northern Bahrain.

    Mahmood ‘Abdul-Majeed ‘Abdullah Al-Jamri, 34, Hassan ‘Abdali ‘Issa, 33, Mohsen ‘Abdali ‘Issa, 26, and ‘Ammar Makki Mohammad Al-Aali, 36, were detained a day later.

    The five were tried in separate cases on charges of insulting the King in messages posted on Twitter.

    Mahdi al-Basri was accused of posting twitter messages in June 2012 that were traced to his IP address. He has denied the charges, stating that his personal Twitter account was not the one used to post these messages and that he had no connection to the account that used his IP address.

    The men were sentenced to one year imprisonment on 15 May under Article 214 of Bahrain’s Penal Code, which criminalizes “offending the emir of the country [the King], the national flag or emblem”.

    April 24, 2013

    Bahrain is clearly "not serious" about implementing human rights reforms, Amnesty International said today after the Gulf kingdom cancelled a planned visit by the United Nations' torture expert for a second time.

    The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, said he was "deeply disappointed" after Bahrain postponed next month's visit, citing delays in "ongoing national dialogue".

    The Bahraini authorities also cancelled a visit by Juan Mendez in February 2012, claiming they were “still undergoing major reforms".

    "This latest cancellation shows that Bahrain is clearly not serious about implementing human rights reforms. The authorities have used the buzzword of 'reform' as a smoke screen, when in reality they are not reforming," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    "There are no reforms in Bahrain, but rather human rights abuses continuing unabated."

    April 17, 2013

    As Bahrain steps into the global spotlight with the upcoming Formula One Grand Prix, there is a high risk that last year’s repressive tactics – when a protester was killed by the security forces – will be repeated or even increased by the authorities, Amnesty International said today.

    The intensity of protests is expected to top last year’s demonstrations around the Grand Prix during a week of planned protests organized by political groups. Clashes between protesters and security forces have been reported in the past two weeks and human rights activists claim dozens of protesters have already been arrested ahead of this year’s event.

    “Instead of responding to the uprising of February 2011, the last two years have seen continued killings, arbitrary arrests and alleged torture in Bahrain. The authorities are trying to use the Grand Prix as a platform to show progress, with claims that the human rights situation has improved, whilst stepping up repression in order to ensure nothing disturbs their public image,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director.

    April 15, 2013

    A move by Bahrain’s government to jail anyone found guilty of insulting the Gulf nation’s King for up to five years is a new attempt to crush dissent before the country hosts the Formula One Grand Prix later this week, Amnesty International said.

    According to state media, Bahrain’s cabinet – chaired by the Prime Minister and the newly appointed deputy Prime Minister, the Crown Prince – on Sunday endorsed an amendment to Article 214 of the Penal Code, increasing the penalty for offending King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah or the country’s flag and other national symbols.

    The amendment, which has now been referred to the National Assembly, would make such offences punishable by up to five years in prison in addition to steep fines.

    “Increasing the punishment for criticism of Bahrain’s King is a further attempt to muzzle activists ahead of the upcoming Grand Prix,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    March 22, 2013

    The Bahraini authorities must respect freedom of expression and assembly during a week of demonstrations planned to protest against the imprisonment of human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, said Amnesty International.

    The human rights defender was imprisoned in August 2012 for three years for calling for and participating in ‘illegal gatherings’. His sentence was reduced to two years in December - Amnesty International has adopted him as a prisoner of conscience.

    Organizers of the ‘don’t forget Nabeel Rajab’ campaign sought official permission to demonstrate on 23 March but had their application flatly rejected by the authorities. Despite fears of excessive use of force by the security forces to disperse the protest, organizers still plan to go ahead.

    “The government of Bahrain has demonstrated time and again its disregard for basic human rights. Not only is Nabeel Rajab unfairly imprisoned, the authorities are now trying to silence his supporters and family,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    February 14, 2013

    Prisoners of conscience remain behind bars and activists continue to be jailed just for expressing their views whether via social media or on peaceful marches, two years on from 2011 protests, said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.

    Victims of state repression say justice remains elusive and restrictions are still in place despite recent institutional reforms.

    “The government of Bahrain cannot carry on imprisoning people simply because it can’t take criticism. It’s time that people detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression be released and for the harassment of other activists to desist,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director.

    “Bahrain risks creating nothing more than a bureaucracy of human rights if changes are not matched by a genuine political will to reform - Bahrainis need to see their rights respected in everyday life.”

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