Rights groups: Bahrain emboldened by int'l silence

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, at least 80 people have been killed since the protests began.

Bahraini women protest (photo credit: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)
Bahraini women protest
(photo credit: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)
Human rights groups in Bahrain accused their country’s government on Wednesday of being "emboldened by international silence" over the recent arrests and harassment of prominent rights defenders.
The groups, who include the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, issued an urgent appeal after police summoned BYSHR’s director, Muhammad al-Maskati, to report to to the al-Hoora police station in Manama on Tuesday on charges of rioting and participating in an illegal gathering.
Under Bahrain’s Penal Code, it is a criminal offense for five or more people to gather in a public place to “undermine public security, even if intended to achieve legitimate purpose.”
Maskati’s lawyers said the human rights activist had been remanded in custody Tuesday night and ordered to appear in the prosecutor’s office on Wednesday.
The rights groups called on the international human rights community to join the appeal to the Bahraini government for al-Maskati’s release, warning that if they did not speak out the authorities may continue their crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.
The groups said that Maskati’s arrest followed his participation last month in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Last month, BYSHR accused the Bahraini authorities of threatening Maskati after he spoke at the council, noting that the kingdom’s pro-government al-Watan newspaper published a photograph of Maskati and other human rights leaders under the caption “al-Watan reveals the names of participants who discredited Bahrain in Geneva.”
Rights groups also said that Maskati’s arrest comes as part of a recent government crackdown on human rights and pro-democracy protests in Bahrain.
Over the weekend, police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters at a second, larger pro-democracy rally in Manama, named “Stop Our Bloodshed, We Will Never Abandon Our Demands” and led by Bahrain’s main opposition bloc, the Shi’ite al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, according to Reuters.
On Tuesday, a Bahraini human rights lawyer said a court had prolonged the appeal of another highprofile Bahraini human rights activist jailed for three years for illegal assembly.
Nabeel Rajab, who serves as president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced in August.
Rajab’s lawyer, attorney Muhammad al-Jishi, said on Twitter that the judge had refused to release Rajab, would not allow defense witnesses into the courtroom and postponed his court hearing until November 8.
According to Amnesty International, Rajab’s defense attorneys also asked the court to open an investigation into evidence that has apparently gone missing from his case file.
Bahrain, which is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, has seen anti-regime protests since February 14, 2011, when Shi’ite protesters demanded increased civic freedoms and greater participation in the Sunni-led kingdom.
According to the International Federation for Human Rights, at least 80 people have been killed since the protests began.
On Sunday, lawyers representing five hunger striking Shi’ite medics jailed in connection with the protests also called on the international community to campaign for their release.
The medics, including senior orthopedic surgeon Ali Alekri, were arrested after caring for protesters wounded in last year’s crackdown.