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article imageDozens of Bahraini activists jailed for up to 15 years

By Ken Hanly     Oct 1, 2013 in World
Manama - In continuing repression of any opposition to the ruling Khalifa monarchy, 37 activists were jailed for up to 15 years for "terrorist crimes." The day before (Sunday Sept. 29) another 50 activists and protest leaders had been sentenced as well.
A criminal court in Manama, presided over by a judge appointed by the king, sentenced four defendants to 15 years in prison. Six were jailed for 10 years, and 27 others were given five-year terms. Only two were acquitted. The group were convicted of "carrying out terrorist crimes on April 24 as part of a group attempt to undermine public security and endanger lives of people and public property as well as attempting to kill policemen."
Just the day before, a Bahraini court sentenced 50 protesters and activists. A rights group said that many were denied access to a lawyer and gave confessions under torture. In a separate hearing, two police officers jailed for torturing a protester to death in his cell back in 2011 had their sentences reduced from 10 years to 2.
Yousif al-Muhafda, deputy-head of the Bahraian Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said:"This is the result when you have a court with a judge appointed by the king of Bahrain .The court is just a tool to suppress the opposition and human rights defenders, and to acquit those who torture and kill protesters." Sixteen defendants were jailed for 15 years, four for 10 years and 30 for five. The group were charged with forming the February 14, Revolution Youth Coalition which Bahraini authorities call a terrorist group. Countries seem to routinely call any opposition group terrorist these days. Assad uses the same terminology as does the Egyptian military-backed government. While there may be a few terrorists among the opposition to the Bahraini monarchy, even peaceful demonstrations are often treated violently and all demonstrations in the capital Manama have been banned.
Among those receiving a 15 -year sentence was Naji Fateel a well-known blogger and protest organizer. He had been jailed and tortured twice before. This time the judge prevented him from testifying to his torture. On Friday, a demonstration west of the capital Manama, attracted thousands of people.
The protest was to condemn the arrest of a prominent political figure and ex-MP Khalil Marzooq on charges of inciting terrorism. The protest was peaceful but it came only hours after protesters and police had clashed in a nearby village. On Thursday night protesters took to the streets of Manama demanding the release of political prisoners and the fall of the Sunni monarchy. The latter demand is itself criminal in Bahrain.
After Marzoog's arrest on Tuesday, opposition groups suspended participation in national reconciliation talks. Marzooq had been deputy-speaker in the Bahraini parliament but walked out with 18 members of his Al-Wefaq movement in February 2011 to protest violence against demonstrators.
In his speech at the UN, President Obama made reference to "efforts to resolve sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Bahrain and Syria." Bahraini authorities immediately took umbrage at the reference. Bahrain's ambassador to the US Houda Nonoo said on her official blog she was "disappointed to hear him compare the situation in Bahrain to that of the current situation in Iraq and the unfolding tragedies in Syria."
Interior minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abadallah al-Khalifa said that Bahrain had "never witnessed at any time sectarian tensions." Sectarian tensions between the ruling Sunni minority and the majority Shia population have been at the root of many protests. The foreign minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al Khalifa claimed that the kingdom fostered a culture of tolerance between its various communities. He claimed that "what is occurring in Bahrain today is a concerted effort by terrorist extremist groups to target security personnel and expatriates with the intent of spreading fear and division within Bahrain's society, as well as targeting Bahrain's national economy and development".
In spite of Bahrain's repression of the opposition the monarchy is a key ally of the US. Bahrain is a base for the US fifth fleet. The US provides considerable military aid: Since the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. has provided military and defense technical assistance and training to Bahrain from Foreign Military Sales (FMS), commercial sources, and excess defense article sales (EDA), and under the International Military and Education Training (IMET) program. U.S. military sales to Bahrain since 2000 total $1.4 billion. Military exercises are conducted on a regular basis to increase the BDF's readiness and improve coordination with the U.S. and other GCC forces. The BDF also sends personnel to the United States for military training. This training includes courses from entry-level technical training to graduate-level professional military education.
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