09/16/2021, 12.19
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Manama grants parole to dozens of political prisoners

The measure affects some 30 prisoners for crimes of opinion or thought. A recent amendment by the monarch provides for alternative sentences to prison at any time of sentencing. Some detainees had ended up in cells while still underage. Of 3,800 total detainees, at least 1,400 are political prisoners. 


Manama (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The authorities of Bahrain have ordered the conditional release of 30 political prisoners, based on the application of a reform of the penal code that allows electronic monitoring and house arrest in place of prison. This is reported by government sources confirmed by local activist groups, according to which almost all the people released in recent days are considered "prisoners of conscience or politicians". 

Since the uprisings related to the Arab Spring in 2011, the Gulf state has imprisoned thousands of protesters, journalists, activists or ordinary citizens, judging them in mass trials in which the right to defense was not respected, Manama says it has prosecuted people who have committed crimes according to international law and rejects criticism from the United Nations and pro-human rights movements on the trials and prison conditions. 

In 2017, a legal reform included the possibility of commuting prison sentences with other forms of repression - electronic surveillance, rehabilitative programs, community-based services, home detention - after serving at least half of the sentence. Last week, the king introduced an amendment allowing for changes to the prison regime at any time. 

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, an activist in exile and leader of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), points out that at least 27 of the 30 people released this week are political prisoners. However, he adds, they "will continue to face severe restrictions on their freedoms and even the few releases remain overshadowed by the continued incarceration of hundreds of prisoners of conscience or politicians." 

Among those released on the night of September 12 is Kameel Juma Hasan, who was arrested at the age of 14 and sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2019. According to the experts of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (Wgad) this is a case of arbitrary detention. Reuters sources also point out that those released are subject to electronic monitoring of movements, a ban on talking to the press or the use of social media. 

Bird estimates that, compared to a prison population of about 3,800, there are more than 1,400 political or opinion-related prisoners. Among the high-profile personalities still in cells is Abduljalil al-Singace, who has been on hunger strike for over 60 days. 

Bahrain is a Gulf monarchy ruled by a Sunni dynasty in a reality in which the majority of the population (at least 60-70%) is Shiite and has long been asking for constitutional changes, social and economic rights. In 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring, there have been riots that the King of Bahrain - allied with Washington and supported by Riyadh - has repressed thanks to the support of armed troops sent by Saudi Arabia. 

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