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Bahrain opposition slams acquittal of top officer found guilty of murdering journalist

A Bahraini protest movement has denounced the acquittal of a high-ranking military official and member of the kingdom’s ruling Al Khalifah regime, who has been found guilty of shooting dead a female sports journalist in front of her young son more than five years ago.

The February 14 Youth Coalition — named after the date when a popular uprising against Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifah regime was born — said in a statement on Friday that it condemns in the strongest terms the move in favor of Hamad Mubarak al-Khalifah who has Eman Salehi’s blood on his hands.

“The measure indicates that Bahrain’s occupying royal family values its members above the blood, honor and dignity of other Bahraini nationals. The pardon sends a clear message to those who mistakenly believe this criminal regime can be reformed. The only option ahead of the Bahraini nation is to overthrow the regime, and later try and expel dictator Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah,” the statement read.

“We are absolutely certain that the entire Bahraini nation, activists, scholars and particularly prisoners, who are being subjected to severe forms of torture as well as mental and physical abuse, have reached the conclusion that the Al Khalifah regime can never be reformed as it does not respect the law,” the Bahraini opposition movement said.

“The only option for everyone, especially the opposition, is to work in solidarity towards overthrowing the ruling regime, prosecuting authorities and purging the homeland of corrupt officials,” it pointed out.

The February 14 Youth Coalition highlighted that the Bahraini nation has realized that the Al Khalifah regime has failed over the past decades to implement genuine reforms in the country.

“The royal family will not abandon committing crimes. It is dictating its authoritarian rule, and is restricting public freedom with each passing day,” it concluded.

Salehi, a Shia Muslim woman, worked as a sports journalist for Bahrain’s state-run television broadcaster.

The young mother was gunned down in the street on December 23, 2016 as her six-year-old son watched through the car window.

The journalist was shot once in the head. The killer immediately turned himself into police in the city of Riffa, which is popular with both military officers and members of the royal family.

The motive for the murder of Salehi is not yet clear.

Activists urge release of hunger-striking opposition figure

Meanwhile, human rights groups and activists are calling on Bahraini officials to release a key jailed opposition figure, who has been on hunger strike for weeks over his “ill-treatment.”

Sixteen organizations – including the Britain-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) – released a statement on Friday urging Bahrain to release Abduljalil al-Singace, who went on hunger strike earlier this month.

Singace was among 13 anti-regime protesters a decade ago, who were arrested and convicted on trumped-up charges that included “setting up terror groups to topple the regime.” He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The 59-year-old pro-democracy campaigner launched his hunger strike on July 8 “in response to degrading treatment he was subjected to by a prison officer, to protest the restriction of being permitted to call only five numbers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the groups said in Friday’s joint statement. 

Singace is also demanding a book he has been working on for at least four years be returned to him. It was confiscated by prison guards on 9 April.

Singace, an academic and blogger, has said the book was about linguistic diversity in Bahraini Arabic dialects, and has no political content at all. 

BIRD called the confiscation of Singace’s book “an unjust punishment,” adding “authorities must ensure the protection of his rights, including the return of his intellectual property.” 

“The confiscation of Dr. al-Singace’s research is yet another cynical attempt to humiliate a brave leader who refuses to be cowed in the face of abuse,” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of BIRD, said in an email. 

Alwadaei added, “He has now spent a decade in prison for his peaceful resistance to Bahrain’s dictatorship and it is time for Bahraini authorities to end this petty persecution, return Dr. al-Singace’s book and order his immediate and unconditional release.”

Husain Abdulla, executive director at Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), has also called on the United States and the United Kingdom – both Al Khalifah regime’s close allies – to take action on Singace’s case. 

“Bahrain’s allies in the US and UK continue to remain silent in the face of Dr. al-Singace’s unlawful imprisonment and the many abuses he has been subjected to. This glaring double standard exposes how shallow their professed commitment to human rights really is,” Abdulla said.

Demonstrations in Bahrain have been held on a regular basis ever since a popular uprising began in mid-February 2011.

The participants demand that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama, however, has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent.

On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to the imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

King Hamad ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3, 2017.

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