A group of incarcerated Bahraini Shia Muslim clerics has urged Pope Francis to condemn the injustice and repressive policies of the ruling Al Khalifah regime and push for reforms in the Persian Gulf kingdom ahead of his visit early next month.
In a statement, the scholars said in Bahrain "the motto of tolerance and coexistence is raised for everyone except for its own people," reminding Pope Francis that he is visiting a country "where justice and charity are widely prescribed; but injustice and aggression are practiced in reality.”
“The Bahraini nation constitutes people who have either lost their sons or loved ones, grief-stricken mothers as well as injured, imprisoned, persecuted, and exiled political opponents. International human rights organizations have recorded a long list of violations against Bahraini people,” the statement read.
“Reforms, justice, and human dignity are the common goals of all heavenly messages, and Abrahamic religions categorically rebuff injustice and corruption. These are the goals that the Bahraini nation has long sought to achieve and have made enormous sacrifices for."
“We expect the head of the Catholic Church to speak the truth and field calls for faith and common sense when he visits Bahrain between November 3 and 6. History shows that Muslims and non-Muslims have co-existed in peace in Bahrain,” the statement noted.
Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to Bahrain within the next few weeks at the invitation of the country's civil and ecclesial authorities.
He will visit the capital Manama and the city of Awali “on the occasion of the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence.”
Demonstrations have been held in Bahrain 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.
Earlier this month, a London-based human rights organization said Bahraini courts had convicted and sentenced four anti-regime activists to death following unfair trials and based on confessions coerced through torture and ill-treatment.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said in a 61-page report titled "The Court is Satisfied with the Confession’: Bahrain Death Sentences Follow Torture, Sham Trials,” that Bahraini courts routinely violated the defendants’ rights to fair trials, including the right to legal counsel during interrogation, the right to cross-examine prosecution witnesses, and through reliance on secretly sourced reports.
The report went on to note that much of the torture and ill-treatment occurred in two locations – the Criminal Investigation Directorate of the Ministry of Interior, which is housed in a compound in the Adliya district of Manama, and the Royal Academy of Policing, located adjacent to Bahrain’s notorious Jau Prison.
BIRD called on Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah to commute the death sentences for all individuals, starting with those convicted on the basis of confessions extracted under torture or ill-treatment.
The human rights organization also urged Bahraini authorities to quash the sentences of all persons whose convictions involved the use of coerced confessions and/or fair trial violations.