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Bahraini courts issue life terms for 271 anti-regime activists since Jan. 2018: Rights group

This file picture shows the entrance to the building of Bahrain’s Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs in the capital Manama.

An independent human rights group says Bahraini courts have sentenced hundreds of anti-regime protesters to life imprisonment since the beginning of last year, as the ruling Al Khalifah regime presses ahead with its heavy-handed clampdown on political dissidents in the Persian Gulf kingdom.

The [Persian] Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights said in a report on Tuesday that the Bahraini regime’s courts handed down 271 life sentences to dissidents between January 2018 and May 2019, Arabic-language Bahrain Mirror news website reported.

The report added that a total of 130 life sentences were issued by Bahraini courts between January and December last year – at an average of 10.8 cases per month. May 2018 set a record high then, when 43 life sentences were issued in just one month.

It further noted that the frequency of life sentences increased significantly in 2019, and a total of 141 Bahraini activists were sentenced to life in prison between January and May at a rate of 28.2 cases per month. The process reached its peak in April, when 63 Bahrainis were sentenced to life imprisonment. All those people sentenced to life in 2019 were revoked of their Bahraini citizenship as well.

“The increasing harsh and tough judgments in politically-charged cases indicate the Bahraini authorities' intransigence and unwillingness to ease tension and create a favorable climate conducive to national dialogue. Such an approach will deepen the human rights and political crisis in the country,” the Chairman of the [Persian] Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Yahya al-Hadid, said.

He added, “We call on Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all detainees, compensate the victims of torture, bring those involved in the violations to justice, and call for a serious national dialogue with all parties.”

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established. Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

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 imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3, 2017.

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