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Bahrain seems to be a country in shock. Both human rights defenders and foreign diplomats struggled to find words to capture the scale and systematic nature of the brutal repression that continues remorselessly here. What other country arrests so many doctors, nurses and medical personnel? Sacks academics and withdraws funding from overseas students because of participation in peaceful protests at home and abroad? They are even bulldozing mosques!
And that is before you consider the mass arrests, the systematic torture, the deaths in custody, the harassment at checkpoints, the closing down of independent media and the systematic targeting of human rights defenders. Those who complain are frequently arrested or disappeared. It is clear that the hardliners and their Saudi friends are in the driving seat. They seem hell bent on inflaming sectarian tension and provoking a violent response.
And yet the opposition have remained overwhelmingly peaceful as even those diplomats who were formerly sympathetic to the Government acknowledge.
I made my way out to the Military Court in Rifaa this morning (21st April) to try and be allowed to be an observer at the process against my friend and former colleague Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. I was allowed into the court building but a Bahrain Defence Force officer said that he could not give me access to the hearing of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, in fact he said that he was not in a position to even confirm whether the hearing was taking place. The office of the Military Prosecutor would only confirm that "Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is arrested by the judicial police for his involvement in crimes against the security of the Kingdom of Bahrain" and that he will be able to "meet with his lawyer as soon as referred to the Military Prosecutor."
We remain very worried about Abdulhadi's health given that nobody has yet been able to see him. Hopefully his lawyer will meet him soon. It was good that yesterday the authorities allowed Abdulhadi to speak by phone with his family but they remain very worried about his condition.
Met the wonderful Zeinab Alkhawaja today who is on hunger strike for the release of her husband, brother-in-law and father (my friend Abdulhadi)
See Zeinab's testimony at:
They are held incommunicado and after 4 deaths in custody as a result of torture we are all very worried.... The scary thing is what the Bahraini Government have to hide...
The situation here is very difficult, martial law, incommunicado detentions, armed raids on houses of human rights defenders, beatings, threats and arrests of family members, large numbers sacked from employment for taking part in peaceful protests, and when Kareem Fakhrawi went to register a complaint to the police he ends up tortured to death http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/04/13/bahrain-investigate-new-death-custody
And the hypocrisy of Western Governments who call for democracy and human rights elsewhere but are strangely timid in the face of brutal repression and Saudi armoured cars...