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US Parliament members condemn violations in Bahrain and the arrest of opponents

An American parliamentary committee condemned human rights violations in Bahrain and the arrest of opponents after a congressional delegation toured government institutions in Manama.

The Tom Lantos Committee for Human Rights in the US Congress called on the Bahraini authorities to release all political detainees, activists, and journalists unconditionally.

The committee referred to the detained journalist Ahmed Humaidan, sentenced to ten years in prison on political background, and charged with “illegal demonstration, use of violence to attack the police, and damage to public property.”

Bahraini mercenaries and civilian militias arrested Humaidan from a shopping centre on December 29, 2012. He was held incommunicado for more than 19 hours before he was able to contact his family.

The committee confirmed that Humaidan’s lawyer confirmed that the court did not provide any tangible evidence against his client, except for confessions he made under torture. Humaidan’s family also affirmed that the authorities used physical and psychological torture methods against their son based on information they acquired by what they called “confidential sources.”

The committee pointed out that the detained academic and blogger, Abduljalil Al-Singace, was arrested after his posts that criticized human rights violations, sectarian discrimination, and political opposition suppression in Bahrain.

The Bahraini authorities arrested Al-Singace in 2009 and 2010 for his human rights activities. A month after his release, the authorities detained him again in March 2011 after breaking into his house, beating him and brutally dragging him to the police station under fire threat.

He was charged with participating in the February 2011 protests and conspiring to overthrow the government. During the “national safety” period, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, which the appeals courts upheld.

Al-Singace has been on hunger strike from July 9 until today, in protest against his mistreatment in Jaw Prison and to demand the return of a book he had in his possession to his family.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the mistreatment of academic Al-Singace.

A letter addressed by “9 human rights organizations to the Bahraini authorities, urged for releasing human rights defenders, opposition activists and all other prisoners, simply for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, including Abduljalil al-Singace.

The committee demanded the release of the detained human rights defender, Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja, sentenced to life imprisonment after his arrest on April 9, 2011. He was charged with “financing terrorism, participating in the overthrow of the regime, and spying for a foreign country.”

Al-Khawaja was brutally arrested, beaten and held under enforced disappearance for several weeks. However, there is no evidence against him. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by the military court. In April 2012, the Bahraini Court of Cassation began reviewing the sentences issued against him and 13 other defendants, which upheld the sentence of life imprisonment.

Al-Khawaja sustained four fractures in his face due to torture, underwent a four-hour operation to repair his jaw, and had previously gone on a hunger strike in protest against his illegal detention and ill-treatment in prison.

A delegation of US Senate and Congress employees is visiting Bahrain. It has made several visits to the Bahraini Ministry of Interior, the Governmental National Institution for Human Rights, the Ombudsman, and the Bahraini Parliament.

Thirteen members of the US Congress had called on the US administration to intervene to solve the political crisis in Bahrain, release all political detainees, and put pressure on the Bahraini government to motivate it to implement the necessary reforms to end the human rights crisis and hold free, fair and independent elections that allow the Bahraini people to decide the future of their country.

The Congressional Appropriations Committee called on the US Department of State to prioritize working with the government of Bahrain to make tangible progress in establishing democratic institutions and hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations, including the “armed forces and the Ministry of Interior.”

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