Bahrain jails 12 as authorities continue crackdown on protesters

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Bahraini protesters clash with riot police during a demonstration against the ongoing parliamentary elections in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama on November 22, 2014. AFP / Mohammed al-Shaikh

Published Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Bahraini court has sentenced two former inmates who escaped from Jau prison in April and four accomplices to up to 15 years in prison, Northern Governorate Attorney General Hussein al-Bouali said in a statement on Tuesday's sentencing.

The pair were being held over their alleged involvement in peaceful pro-democracy protests that erupted in Bahrain in 2011.

With Saudi Arabia's help, Bahrain, a country ruled by the al-Khalifa family for over 200 years, crushed peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations that began on February 14, 2011.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors sent troops into Bahrain in March 2011, reinforcing a crackdown that led to accusations of serious human rights violations.

At least 89 people are estimated to have been killed and hundreds have been arrested and tried since the uprising erupted.

The two were caught two days after their escape, which prompted the dismissal of the Gulf kingdom's prisons chief.

Six others received prison terms ranging from five to seven years, according to the statement published by the official BNA news agency.

Seven of the defendants, including the two inmates who escaped, were also convicted of allegedly possessing "unlicensed" weapons.

Last Saturday, Bahraini authorities carried out disputed elections to the 40-member parliament. The focus was on voter turnout, which became a key marker of the election’s validity after Bahrain’s main opposition movement, al-Wefaq, which was banned in October from carrying out any activities for three months for allegedly “violating the law on associations," and four other opposition groups boycotted the polls.

“The elections are being held while more than 3,000 prisoners are behind bars, including Ibrahim Sharif, who is the former chief of the National Democratic Action Society, and many other prominent political figures”, said al-Wefaq chief Sheikh Ali Salman adding that the authorities have repeatedly misled the public in the past.

Today, Bahrain, a key ally of Washington and home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has the distinction of being the country with the second highest prison population rate per 100,000 amongst Arab states in the West Asian and North African region.

Over 200 minors are being held within these prisons, forced to stay side-by-side with adults, and some have faced torture and sexual abuses.

Authorities ignored pleas by human rights groups to release political prisoners, instead increasing the punishment for violent crimes.

Elsewhere, two policemen were lightly wounded in a bomb blast late Tuesday when security forces violently attempted to disperse an "unauthorized" protest in the village of Diraz, BNA claimed.

According to al-Wefaq, Muslim scholars and locals from Diraz took to the streets to protest the house raid by the Bahraini regime of Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Qassim, the most prominent spiritual leader in Bahrain, earlier on Tuesday.

The opposition group shared pictures of the protest on Twitter, and a video showing protesters dispersing after a bomb blast targeted them.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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