To A Wider Prison: Bahraini Regime Conditionally Releases Some Political Prisoners
By Staff, Agencies
As if the Bahraini regime is just sending political prisoners from small cells to a wider prison…
The Bahraini regime has conditionally released 30 prisoners under new rules allowing electronic monitoring and home detention instead, the government and activists said on Wednesday. Almost all those freed are considered political detainees by rights groups.
The Gulf state has imprisoned thousands of protesters, journalists and activists - some in mass trials - since an anti-government uprising in 2011. It says it prosecutes those who commit crimes in accordance with international law, and rejects criticism from the United Nations and others over the conduct of trials and detention conditions.
Under a 2017 "alternative sentences" law prisoners who had served at least half their sentence in jail were allowed to complete it outside via measures including community service, rehabilitation courses and electronic surveillance.
Last week, the king amended the law to allow a switch to non-custodial punishments at any point in a sentence.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a Bahraini activist in exile who heads the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy [BIRD], said 27 of those released this week were political prisoners, and many had been detained when they were juveniles.
"However, they will continue to face severe restrictions on their liberty and these rare releases remain overshadowed by the continued incarceration of hundreds of political prisoners in Bahrain," said Alwadaei. He called on the government to unconditionally release all political detainees.
One of those released on Sunday night was Kameel Juma Hasan, who was arrested at age 14 and sentenced to 28 years in 2019. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [WGAD] in May said it considered him to have been arbitrarily detained.
Documents seen by Reuters show some release offer conditions including devices to monitor movements and bans on speaking to the press, using social media or any political activities.
Hassan Mushaima, who was arrested in 2011 and jailed for life for anti-government protests, declined a conditional release offer this week, his son Ali Mushaima told Reuters.
Several high-profile government critics remain in prison, including Abduljalil al-Singace who has been on hunger strike for more than 60 days.
Leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was released under the alternative sentence law in June 2020.
BIRD estimates that there are over 1,400 political prisoners out of a total prison population in Bahrain of around 3200-3800.
On Wednesday the public prosecution claimed it was considering alternative sentences for six children, without elaborating.
Earlier this year prisoners and security forces clashed inside Jaw prison, and families protested outside, after COVID-19 outbreaks.