UN watchdog urges Bahrain to release academic after 700-day hunger strike

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Bahraini academic and rights activist Abduljalil al-Singace (file photo)

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has urged Bahrain to release a prominent academic who has been on hunger strike without solid food for 700 days.

Abduljalil al-Singace, director and spokesperson of the Human Rights Bureau of the Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy, was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 over what the Bahraini regime claimed to be terrorism-related charges.

He launched a hunger strike in July 2021 after the confiscation of his book on Bahraini dialects of Arabic – written by hand over four years – from his cell in Jaw prison in eastern Bahrain.

In a report released on May 25, the UN working group said Singace had presented a “credible” case of torture at the hands of the Bahraini regime after being subject to enforced disappearance.

It said Singace and his family were threatened at gunpoint and were not presented with a warrant or informed of the reason for his arrest.

“Taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Al-Singace and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law,” the report said.

Husain Abdulla, the executive director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), said the report reaffirmed that Singace had been imprisoned for over a decade on “a sham conviction resulting from sham charges and a sham trial.”

“If the Bahraini government has any respect for the international community at all – or even if it just has any shred of common decency – it will release Dr. al-Singace immediately,” he added.

Singace is one of more than a dozen anti-regime protesters arrested and convicted on trumped-up charges, including allegedly “creating terrorist groups with a view to overthrowing the monarchy and changing the constitution.”

The 60-year-old is an engineer, a blogger, an academic researcher, and one of the leading figures in the anti-monarchy movement in Bahrain.

Anti-monarchy demonstrations began in mid-February 2011 and have been held on a regular basis ever since the popular uprising started.

Demonstrators demand that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and that a just, democratic system representing all Bahrainis be established.

The Manama regime, however, has responded to demands for social equality with an iron fist, clamping down on voices of dissent.

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