BahrainHuman RightsMiddle East

Brutal regime releases some inmates from notorious prison after virus outbreak in Bahrain

Bahrain has released dozens of inmates, including long-term political prisoners, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases at the heavily overcrowded jail in Faw, east of the Persian Gulf kingdom.

Activists said on Saturday that the Manama regime’s authorities had vowed to set free a total of 199 detainees, but only 166 have so far been released.

Mohammed Jawad, 75, an uncle of prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, was among those freed after spending 10 years in prison.

The released inmates will carry out the rest of their sentences under electronic monitoring.

Bahrain’s Health Ministry claimed that only three prisoners had contracted the coronavirus at the Faw jail and that the vaccination campaign had been completed there.

However, London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said dozens of detainees had contracted the virus at the detention facility.

Over the past months, Bahraini authorities have been criticized for flouting the prisoners’ right to adequate health care and hygiene supplies amid the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Family members of the prisoners have in recent weeks staged demonstrations in a number of Bahraini localities, urging the immediate release of their loved ones.

“The Bahraini government and prison authorities have a clear duty to guarantee the right to health of those in detention and protect them from the risk of infection. They must not gamble with the lives of those in their custody. The authorities must ensure all prisoners are provided with face masks and adequate hygiene supplies, that they can keep physical distance and are tested regularly,” said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

Additionally, Bahrain’s main opposition group the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society  has called for the release of prisoners of conscience since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Al-Wefaq holds the regime fully responsible for what is happening inside the prisons,” it said last month, adding that the inmates’ health had been exhausted by years of torture and inhumane conditions.

Anti-regime protests have been held in Bahrain on a regular basis ever since a popular uprising began on February 14, 2011.

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

They have also been complaining about widespread discrimination against the country’s Shia majority.

Manama has responded to the demonstrations with an iron fist. The authorities have detained rights campaigners, broken up major opposition political parties, revoked the nationality of several pro-democracy activists and deported them.

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