Saturday, April 14, 2012

Funeral in Bahrain erupts in violence

April 13, 2012 CNN

Thousands of mourners defied government forces and took to the
streets Friday in Salmabad, Bahrain, to attend the funeral of Ahmed
Ismaeel, who was killed last week in anti-government protests, witnesses
told CNN.

"Despite this ruling family we will be protesting even if we all become
martyrs," said a man's voice over a loudspeaker. "You are the free people,
do not bow to them!"

To that, the crowd chanted, "Just to God we will bow!"

CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the video.

The funeral procession was held without incident, but clashes broke out
during the burial between mourners and riot police, a witness said.
F1 chief: Sport, politics should not mix

Several people were injured when protesters hurled petrol bombs and rocks
and police responded with bird shot and tear gas, the witness said.

Activist Ala'a Shehehabi of Bahrain Watch said she, too, attended the
funeral. "It was seething with anger and full of anti-government chants,"
she said. "As we were leaving the burial we were attacked by the riot
police. We saw the police coming in and got in our car."

Shehehabi shot video that she said showed teargas and shotgun pellets
being used on the demonstrators.

"It was use of excessive force," she said. "The policy is collective
punishment. They target everyone on the street that's doing anything. It's
bad. It's wrong. It's happened to every funeral I've been to."

She said she believed the crackdown was an attempt by the government to
clear away protesters before next weekend's planned Formula 1 Gulf Air
Bahrain Grand Prix.

In a news release issued Friday, the race's governing body said its
president traveled last November to Bahrain and met with "a large number
of decision-makers and opinion formers, including elected Shia members of
parliament, the president of the Bahrain Independent Commission of
Inquiry, ambassadors from the European Union countries, the Crown Prince,
the Interior Minister and many members of the business community.

"All expressed their wish for the Grand Prix to go ahead in 2012," it said.

But Bahrain Watch's Shehehabi said there was growing resentment among
Bahrainis to the planned event. "Formula 1 is giving the perception that
is intrinsically linked to the regime. It's its pet project. Going against
Formula 1 is going against the government."

That view was supported by the Bahrain Youth Coalition, which has
organized a number of anti-government protests.

"The vast majority of Bahraini people have clearly expressed their
objection to F1 to take place in Bahrain," the coalition said. "Insistence
to hold the race in our occupied land presents a great provocation to the
feelings of people and disregards the blood that is shed every day."

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said the decision to go ahead with the
race "gives Bahrain's rulers the opportunity they are seeking to obscure
the seriousness of the country's human rights situation."

"Formula 1 promoters say their decision to race in Bahrain should not be
derailed by political considerations, but the ruling family will attempt
to portray today's decision as a political statement of support for its
repressive policies," said Tom Porteious, deputy program director at Human
Rights Watch.

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres said Thursday in a
statement on its website that patients from all religious and political
backgrounds "continue to avoid seeking medical care in public hospitals
due to perceived discrimination, harassment, and ill treatment."

The group suspended activities in Bahrain in March. "Since last summer,
hundreds of patients have avoided going to public hospitals," said Bart
Janssens, Medecins Sans Frontieres director of operations in Brussels.

There was no immediate response from the Bahrain government to a request
for comment.

Further inflaming a number of the protesters was the precarious health of
a jailed activist who has been on a hunger strike for more than two

Friday marked the 65th day without food for Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, 52.

Bahrain Information Authority International Counselor Abdul-Aziz bin
Mubarak said that he was in stable condition and being administered fluids
intravenously with his consent.

Al-Khawaja was arrested a year ago and is serving a life sentence for his
role in anti-government protests that continue to roil Bahrain.

The United Nations has urged Bahrain to consider transferring the
detainee, who holds Danish citizenship, to Denmark on humanitarian

But Mubarak said that the prisoner was being well cared for and that
government officials had no plans to send him to Denmark. "We are
providing him with all the care that he needs in order for his condition
to be as stable as possible," Mubarak said.

Amnesty International said this week in a statement that al-Khawaja and 13
other prominent opposition activists are being held "solely for peacefully
exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly."

The men have not advocated any violence, said Amnesty.

Relatives are concerned about his health. His daughter said al-Khawaja is
having trouble breathing and is harassed by hospital staff and security

Al-Khawaja was arrested in April 2011 for his role in anti-government
protests that began a month earlier with demands for political reform and
greater freedoms in the Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority nation.

In June, Bahrain found him and seven other Shiite opposition activists
guilty of plotting to overthrow the country's Sunni royal family.

He can appeal his life sentence during a hearing April 23, the government

Denmark 'demands' release of Bahrain activist

Danish prime minister says Shia hunger striker in "very critical"
condition, as doubts cloud upcoming Formula One race.

10 Apr 2012 Al Jazeera

A jailed activist who has been on hunger strike in a Bahrain prison for
the last two months is now in a very critical
condition, Denmark's prime minister has said.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a Shia activist with dual Danish and Bahraini
nationality, was sentenced with other opposition activists to life in jail
over an alleged plot to topple the Sunni monarchy during a month-long
protest a year ago.

"Denmark demands the Danish-Bahraini citizen and human rights activist
Khawaja be freed," said Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Tuesday
at a press conference.

In Video

Al-Khawaja's daughter, Zainab, speaks to Al Jazeera

"According to our information, Khawaja's condition is very critical," she

Kwawaja's lawyer Mohammed al-Jeshi told the AFP news agency on Monday that
Khawaja was feared to have died, after Bahraini authorities turned down
repeated requests to contact him.

The last time he contacted Khawaja was on Saturday, a day after he was
moved from the interior ministry hospital into a military hospital in
Manama, he said.

Reacting to his statement, Bahrain's interior ministry said later on
Monday that Khawaja was in "good health".

UN involvement

A Danish foreign ministry spokesman said Khawaja was alive on Monday
according to "credible independent sources" who saw him that day.

Danish ambassador to Bahrain Christian Koenigsfeldt was not allowed to see
the prisoner on Sunday or Monday, as he has done daily, the spokesman told

Denmark has asked Bahrain to send Khawaja to the Scandinavian country but
Bahrain's official news agency BNA reported on Sunday that Manama has
rejected the request.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said Bahrain should consider the
transfer of Khawaja to Denmark on humanitarian grounds.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters that "in cases where there is a
hunger strike, the health and well-being of the person should be the
foremost concern".

Western rights groups say Khawaja and 13 other opposition figures in
prison for their role in last year's protests are prisoners of conscience
and should be freed.

Requests 'refused'

Zainab al-Khawaja, the daughter of Abdul Hadi al-Khawaj, told Al Jazeera
that the family had "no idea" about the state of his health as they had
not been allowed to call or visit him.

On Monday, his lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi told the AFP news agency:
"Authorities have been refusing since yesterday all requests, made by
myself and by his family, to visit or contact al-Khawaja."

Jishi said the last time he contacted Khawaja was on Saturday, a day after
he was moved from the interior ministry hospital to a military hospital in

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Fahad al-Binali, from Bahrain's Information
Affairs Authority, said that it "must be remembered that the convictions
against Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja are serious charges".

Formula One winner Jackie Stewart speaks to Al Jazeera about the Bahraini
Grand Prix

"Any person who demands reform must understand that the rule of law comes
first," he said.

Formula One

Protesters have also demonstrated against plans to host the Formula One
Grand Prix this month in Manama.

Last year's race in Bahrain was postponed, reinstated and then cancelled
due to the uprising and bloody crackdown.

The governing International Automobile Federation and Bahrain organisers
have all said the race is still on for April 22.

But Formula One teams headed to China on Monday for a race on April 15
still unsure whether their return trip would take in Bahrain for the
following race amid the safety fears.

Team sources told the Reuters news agency that some had hedged their bets
by routing personnel on return flights via Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Oman with
alternative reservations for the last leg of the journey back from

Saudi activist on hunger strike 'in danger'

A human rights group says Mohammad al Bajadi,a Saudi Arabian activist,
stopped drinking water, and is fainting.

11 Apr 2012 Al Jazeera

A Saudi human rights group voiced alarm about the health of one of its
jailed members, who has been on hunger strike for almost a month and has
recently stopped drinking water also.

"The interior ministry... carries full responsibility over the
deteriorating health condition of prominent rights activist and member of
the association Mohammed bin Saleh al-Bajadi," the Saudi Civil and
Political Rights Association (ACPRA) said.

Bajadi "stopped drinking water early Saturday... fainting four times in a
row, which proves that his life is in danger and his death inevitable,"
said the statement.

But interior ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki denied to AFP that Bajadi
is on hunger strike.

"Bajadi is taking his meals regularly and is in good health," he said.

The rights group called for Bajadi's "immediate release," saying he must
face a "fair public trial."

According to the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), he is protesting his
ill-treatment and arbitrary detention, after which he was kept in solitary
confinement for four months.

"Mohammad al-Bajadi shouldn't be imprisoned for peacefully exercising his
rights to freedom of expression and assembly," said Nabeel Rajab, director
of GCHR, and added, "I call on the Saudi king to immediately release him
and do everything in his power to protect and support the legitimate work
of human rights defenders and also to meet all legal obligations under
international law."

Last month, ACPRA said Bajadi, 34, was arrested after publicly revealing
information about the alleged "death by torture of Yemeni citizen Sultan
Abdo al-Duais" while in Saudi custody.

He was arrested at his home in Buraidah, al-Qassim province by security
forces on 21 March 2011 and remains in incommunicado detention since, said
the GCHR.

A fellow activist, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said Bajadi
has been charged with "inciting people to protest, possession of banned
books and damaging the reputation of the state."

Travel ban

The GCHR reported that the ministry of interior has also imposed a
ten-year travel ban on Sheikh Mukhlif al-Shammari, another human rights

Shammari, a writer and prominent rights advocate, was arrested in June
2010 and charged with "disturbing others" through his articles. This
charge was eventually dismissed in the Court of First Instance.

He was stopped on April 8th while trying to cross by land into Bahrain.

"They have taken this action because of my peaceful activities in defense
of human rights," Shammari said. "This ban is a violation of all treaties
signed by Saudi Arabia to protect human rights."

No comments: