Several detainees in Gurayn military prison, including the blogger Adbuljalil Al-Singace, have begun a hunger strike and have issued a joint letter denouncing their imprisonment and the frequency of arbitrary detention and unfair trials in Bahrain.
Singace, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court on 22 June, is suffering from various ailments affecting his mobility. Reporters Without Borders is very worried about his physical condition and urges the authorities to free him and all the other prisoners of conscience.
The Bahraini authorities lifted a state of emergency in 1 June and began a national dialogue on 1 July. They also announced that cases of civilians pended trial by court martial would transferred to civilian courts. But the convictions of civilians already handed down by military courts were never reviewed.
Bahrain was ranked 144th out of 178 countries in the press freedom index that Reporters Without Borders published in October 2010. It was also included in the “countries under surveillance” in the latest Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet.”
One blogger sentenced to life imprisonment, another to 15 years in jail
Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the long jail sentences that a military court passed today on 21 activists accused of belonging to terrorist organizations and trying to overthrow the government. Eight of them, including human rights activist and blogger Abduljalil Al-Singace, got life sentences. Thirteen others received sentences ranging from two to 15 years in prison. Ali Abdulemam, a blogger who was tried in absentia, was given 15 years.
“The only crime committed by Abdulemam and Al-Singace was freely expressing opinions contrary to those of the government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “These sentences, handed down at the end of trail that flouted defence rights, are typical of the intransigence that the authorities have been showing towards those identified as government opponents, who have borne the full brunt of their repression. The international community must call the government to account on its strategy of stifling all dissent.”
The head of the pro-democracy and civil liberties movement Al Haq, Singace was rearrested on 16 March after being held from September to February. He was previously arrested in 2009 for allegedly trying to destabilize the government because he used his blog (http://alsingace.katib.org) to denounce the deplorable state of civil liberties and discrimination against Bahrain’s Shiite population.
Abdulemam is regarded by fellow Bahrainis as one of his country’s Internet pioneers and is an active member of Bahrain Online, a pro-democracy forum that gets more than 100,000 visitors a day despite being blocked within Bahrain. A contributor to the international bloggers network Global Voices, he has taken part in many international conferences at which he has denounced human rights violations in Bahrain. He was also detained from September to February but avoided being rearrested and has been in hiding for several months.
Human rights activists reported many irregularities during this trial and have been calling for an end to trials before special military courts now that the state of emergency has been lifted. According to the defendants themselves or their families, some of the defendants were tortured or mistreated while in detention.