October 3, 2012

Bahraini Activists' Prison Built By Power Politics

Last week, as expected, a Bahraini appeals court refused to release imprisoned activists Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja. This decision mocks the monarchy's own defense of a trial that is widely perceived as politically motivated - namely the defendant's right to an appeal process. In reality Bahrain's appeals courts function as a vortex to another dimension. Activists like Zainab's father, Abdullahi, have already fallen down this seemingly endless pit only to receive harsh prison terms at the end. Now Nabeel and Rajab are tumbling down their own wormhole of disinformation and injustice.

The second session of Rajab's appeal trial offers a typical example of the modern advances in autocracy, and also displays the obvious collusion between Bahrain's royal family and their judiciary system. In video "evidence" present by the public prosecution, Rajab is shown attending several different protests and failing to call for peaceful demonstrations as "youthful" protesters threw their Molotovs. The defense, however, argues that the videos were edited to remove Rajab's peaceful message and spliced with another protest to discredit him. These videos weren't presented at his trial either, demonstrating the orchestrated nature of Rajab's persecution and how far King Hamad's circle will go to keep him off Manama's streets. The defense also submitted a complaint that no one has been held accountable for his January 6th encounter with Bahraini security forces.

If his government is left to its own devices, one cannot anticipate a favorable hearing on October 16th or the conclusion of Rajab's appeals process. He has been jailed for a total of 126 days and faces a three-year prison sentence for "instigating protests."

The treatment of Zainab is no less horrific. Recently sentenced to two months in prison for “ripping the photo of the king" - after being jailed since August 2nd - she faces at least eight lawsuits and another five pending cases that are designed to exhaust her. And since her spirit cannot be broken, the monarchy has decided to break her down physically in the jetwash of police custody. Having already been assaulted during August's arrest, which left her with a leg injury that has yet to heal, Zainab came under renewed attack at the Isa Town police station. She was later able to inform her mother of the incident:
"Despite being on a fast, she was forced to sit at the police station without food or water from 1 pm to 7pm (fasting break at around 5:40pm). When she started walking around because she got tired of sitting, a female officer told her to sit down. When Alkhawaja sat next to a domestic worker who had a young child who appeared to be Alkhawaja’s daughter’s age, and spoke to the woman, policewoman Basma Alhajeri attacked Alkhawaja verbally. She told her to stop speaking to the other woman, that the other woman is more honourable than her, and continued to verbally assault Alkhawaja in reference to her honour. She then told Alkhawaja to go into the room next door.

Alkhawaja refused saying she should be moved when she will be taken to the police station. The male officer at the station then ordered that she be taken prison, and as soon as Zainab started to walk she noticed the male officer signalling to officer Basma Alhajeri, who proceeded to physically attack Alkhawaja, with no regard to Zainabs injured leg. She knocked Alkhawaja to the ground and continuously kicked and punched her, while verbally assaulting her as well. She then dragged her to the police jeep, and continued to verbally assault her during the drive to the police station where Zainab will be held overnight."
It should be noted that Zainab and Rajab are two of the most peaceful advocates that Bahrain's opposition has to offer, and latter has also endured physical abuse during his time at Jaww Prison.
Due to the monarchy's intractable position, the Bahraini Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has urged the US administration, "as well as other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the UK government and the EU," to call for the immediate release of human rights activists. Unfortunately Bahrain's opposition floats in the outer regions of Western policy; the mobilization needed to overcome U.S.-Saudi dominance is truly astronomical. The island was ignored completely during President Barack Obama's latest address to the UN General Assembly, a speech that is currently plastered on the frontpage of the U.S. Embassy's website, and the White House is too busy campaigning to notice. The State Department has yet to comment on Rajab and Zainab's continual imprisonment. No Facebook post has been issued from the U.S. Embassy and no Tweet by UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

Nothing remains except a black hole of injustice and propaganda.

Meanwhile King Hamad's men blended into the surrounding environment and mingled freely the UNGA's 67th session. High-level consultations with Western or Gulf states often follow prison sentences and security crackdowns, and the days following Rajab's appeal hearing repeated this choreographed process. On the sidelines of Geneva's 21st UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session, Human Rights Affairs Minister Dr. Salah bin Ali Abdurrahman met to discuss bilateral cooperation with Scott Busby, a senior advisor for the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (headed by the pro-Bahraini Michael Posner). While Busby did raise "several "issues, including "the prosecution of doctors and the court verdicts against activists," these obligatory concerns are ultimately designed to marginalize Bahrain's political prisoners.

Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa was particularly laden with a "luncheon" hosted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, a sideline session with US Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East Elizabeth Jones, a GCC–EU "troika meeting" and another GCC-U.S. sideline session. All parties would unanimously reaffirm their support for the other and opposition towards the Iranian-Syrian alliance, offering perfect cover for Al-Khalifa and highlighting the unrivaled access that Bahrain's monarchy enjoys. Most interestingly, he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were "updated on progress of work on a naval operation centre in the Kingdom of Bahrain."

Today Information Affairs Authority (IAA) President Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa met with U.S. Admiral John Miller and Rear Admiral Kevin Scott at the US Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain US Naval Forces Central Command: "They reviewed bilateral friendly relations and both countries' keenness to boost them."

Rajab and Zainab presumably weren't on the agenda.

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