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Eight Bahrain activists sentenced to life

A Bahraini court has sentenced eight Shia opposition activists to life in prison for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Sunni regime

Cailly Morris

In yet another case against those expressing their opinion during anti-government protests, eight more Bahraini activists were sentenced to life imprisonment after a court found them guilty of plotting to overthrow the Sunni royal family and having “a terrorist organization abroad”.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Bahraini government is in violation of international law and has urged Bahrain to stop the military court proceedings from progressing further.

“Most defendants hauled before Bahrain’s special military court are facing blatantly political charges, and trials are unfair,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Although only one of several Middle Eastern and North African countries overtaken by anti-government protests, Bahrain has seen a shocking number of arrests during the two months of protests that commanded the world’s attention earlier this year.

Among those sentenced to life were leading rights activist Adbul Hadi al-Khawaja, who daughters are prominent members of the Bahrain human rights movement and Hassan Mushaima, a Shia dissident and leader of hardline opposition group.

“Abdul Hadi al-Khawaia is one of the most respected human rights activists in the whole Arab region, so people are very angry,” said Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. “Hundreds of people have been brought up for charges in the past few days, and hundreds more are waiting to be tried.”

Ibrahim Sharif, a secular leftist Sunni who was accused by a state-run newspaper of having links to “a foreign country” – Iran – received a lesser sentence than al-Khawaja and Mushaimaia and says he is the only prominent member of the Sunni community to be campaigning openly for equal rights.

“Things have to change here, or else the country will suffer and the kingdom could be imperiled,” said Sharif.

Besides the eight given life sentences, another 13 demonstrators were given between two – 15 years in an attempt by the Bahrain government t to crush any and all dissent.

The sentences have already inflamed activists across Bahrain who call for democratic reform and are encouraging protestors to take the streets in Manama on Wednesday in defiance of the verdicts and the government.

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