Rights group urges Bahrain to free all political prisoners

Rights group urges Bahrain to free all prisoners of conscience due to Covid-19 risks
2 min read
19 April, 2021
Dozens of prisoners are estimated to suffering from Covid-19 in the Bahraini jails, and their families want them back home.
Dozens of Bahrain detainees have been released amid a surge of Covid-19 [Getty]

A leading Gulf rights group issued an appeal on Monday for Bahrain to release all prisoners of conscience currently held in the kingdom due to the threat of coronavirus.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) asked "all human rights defenders, activists and protesters who are in prison in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly" after a spike in Covid-19 cases in the country and its prisons.

The report mentioned Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, the brother-in-law of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, head of advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, whose family learned he had contracted Covid-19 in detention.

"We don't know exactly how many, but dozens of prisoners have contracted the virus," Khalid Ibrahim, co-director of the GCHR, told The New Arab. 

"The authorities say that they [the prisoners] are in isolation and being followed according to health protocols but their families just want them home, they don't trust the authorities.

"And our appeal is not just for the prisoners of conscience, all of those who are not a danger to the public should be released to be safer. It's Ramadan, the state could show mercy," he added.

Families of detainees held protests after learning of an outbreak of Covid in Bahrain's main prison, Jaw, which is estimated to be holding 2,700 detainees.

"It's mostly mothers that we see in these protests," Ibrahim said. "They are really scared for their sons in prison."

Authorities had promised to free 126 prisoners and 73 other detainees but only 166 had been released as of 10 April.  

Mohammed Jawad, who was sentenced to 15 years of prison in 2011 for having campaigned specifically on behalf of detainees and prisoners, was one of them according to the GCHR.

Those released are to serve out the rest of their terms under electronic tagging.

It came as the biggest surge in cases was recorded by the health authorities in late March with 1,027 new cases in one day. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Bahrain recorded 164,110 cases and 594 deaths.

Since a Shia-led 2011 uprising in the Sunni kingdom was put down with Saudi military support, Bahrain has outlawed opposition parties and arrested dozens of activists, sparking international criticism.

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