Bahrain's main opposition group renews call for release of jailed political opponents

This undated file picture shows a view of inmates at the notorious Jau Prison, south of Manama, Bahrain. (Photo via Twitter)

Bahrain's main opposition group has renewed its call for the immediate release of political inmates being kept behind bars at detention centers across the Persian Gulf kingdom, stressing that the right to free expression and freedom of peaceful assembly form the backbone of public demands.

The al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, in a statement issued on Thursday, blamed the ruling Al Khalifah regime’s extremism, repressive measures and use of violence against the pro-democracy campaign in the country for the worsening political crisis.

“Despite the ban on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Bahrain, thousands of citizens have taken to streets in recent years to express their political demands, underline their direct role in running the country’s affairs and oppose authoritarian rule,” the movement noted.

Al-Wefaq added, “The rift between the Manama regime and the Bahraini nation is fairly deep. The regime does not have any connection with people other than through security institutions, which employ excessive force, violence, threats and arbitrary measures.”

“Not only does the regime refuse dialogue or reconciliation with the nation, but also takes its revenge on the advocates of dialogue and demonizes them by all means in order to forcibly silence them,” the statement also read.

The Bahraini opposition movement went on to emphasize that Bahraini people are demanding a just democratic system and a constitutional monarchy.

Al-Wefaq also demanded the immediate release of former Bahraini lawmaker Osama al-Tamimi, and stressed the need to provide all medical requirements and humanitarian needs for the political prisoner.

The group also called for the formation of a committee to investigate allegations brought up against Tamimi.

Bahrain has come under pressure from human rights organizations over prison conditions, including overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of medical care.

Since the March outbreak of the coronavirus at the Jau prison, families of the Bahraini prisoners have been holding protests demanding the release of their loved ones and better conditions. There was a violent confrontation between guards and prisoners in April after prisoners protested against their conditions.

On April 19, Bahrain’s most prominent cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim said drawing up a new constitution was the only way out of the political crisis in the protest-hit tiny kingdom, urging the regime in Manama to pursue an agreement with the Bahraini opposition instead of increasingly suppressing the dissidents.

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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