Nabeel Rajab, now detained, addressing a rally in March
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Bahrain Live Coverage: Detaining Activists --- The "Twitter Excuse"
1815 GMT: Eighteen members of the European Parliament have called on the European Union to hold the Bahrain government accountable over current and historic human rights violations, with targeted sanctions to follow if a strict deadline for reform is not met.
In a letter to Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, the MEPs noted Saturday's arrest of Nabeel Rajab as "only the latest escalation of the increasingly repressive policy by the Bahraini government against the opposition movement"
The letter, initiated by Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake, continues:
It is high time the EU speaks out against the ongoing repression of the opposition and violation of human rights. In its resolution of 15 March 2012 on human rights violations in Bahrain the Parliament called for "the immediate and unconditional release of all peaceful demonstrators, political activists, human rights defenders, doctors and paramedics, bloggers and journalists" and urged you to "hold the Bahraini Government to its promises to respect human rights, implement the necessary reforms, start independent investigations into human rights violations and ensure that those responsible are held to account."
We urge you to reiterate this call and hold the Bahraini Government to its promises, and to set a clear deadline to be met in order to prevent serious consequences. We call on you to prepare a set of targeted restrictive measures, including; a formal ban on the export of all military equipment (in particular tear gas), to ensure that no military equipment is sold or exported from within the EU to Bahrain; visa bans and asset freezes for those individuals responsible for the violent repression of peaceful protestors. It is essential for the EU's credibility in the region to show that the EU has a consistent policy towards governments violating their citizens' human rights.
1600 GMT: Regime spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa has indicated that Saturday's arrest of activist Nabeel Rajab, on claims that he used Twitter to incite riots and attacks on policemen, is only part of a larger campaign: "Because of the escalation in violence, we are looking into the perpetrators and people who use print, broadcast and social media to encourage illegal protest and violence around the country. If applying the law means tougher action, then so be it."
Al Khalifa said dialogue with the opposition could only come after parties declared they were prepared for talks without preconditions.
Abduljalil Khalil, a senior member of the opposition society Al Wefaq, responded, "This escalation is not good for the country, it will take us back to square one."
Khalil continued, "The talks have stopped, so the authorities are really moving to another phase of the security approach. I don't know if it was the hardliners in the family or from outside, but at any rate the outcome now is that everything has stopped."
A Cabinet statement on Sunday warned clerics against incitement to violence, sectarianism, harming the economy, and insulting institutions of state. An advisor said the comments were directed against Sheikh Isa Qassim, a leading Shi'a cleric who has led mass protests of tens of thousands of people.
Khalil said any move against Qassim, such as banning him from preaching, would inflame the Shi'ite opposition and would indicate that reigme hardliners "really want to burn the country" to maintain the status quo.
1516 GMT: Activist Maryam Alkhawaja updates on the condition of her detained father, on Day 90 of his hunger strike:
Abdulhadi Alkhawaja just called his wife, health deteriorating further, says he can't leave his bed and has lost all his energy #bahrain— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) May 8, 2012
A civilian court is reviewing the convictions, handed down by a military tribunal last June, of 21 men. Fourteen of them were put behind bars, eight on life sentences; the other seven were found guilty in absentia. The group includes human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on a hunger strike for 90 days, but who was not among the eleven defendants in court.
The defendants appeared watched proceedings from a glass-paneled holding pen, while defence lawyer Hasan Radhi set out allegations of torture and other abuses in custody and said the men signed forced confessions and other documents after their arrests.
The next hearing in the review was set for 22 May.
0945 GMT: The regime-linked Gulf Daily News posts a lengthy attack piece, aimed at the London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement, claiming "an illegal network of saboteurs has been carrying out attacks in Bahrain based on instructions from abroad".
The Freedom Movement is led by Dr Saeed Al Shehabi who --- along with activsts like hunger striker Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and political leader Hassan Mushaima --- was sentenced to life last June for "a 21-man plot to overthrow the government".
Al Shehabi, like Hassan Mushaima's son Ali. who was sentenced to 15 years in the same case, remains in Britain. The regime has tried to link Ali Mushaima to Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia.
A regime source claimed:
In every village for every 15 people there is a leader, who is in constant touch with other leaders in different areas. All these leaders report to a common person based in Bahrain, who shares information with Bahrain Freedom Movement members.
They pay these young men...to attack policemen by stones, homemade weapons and Molotov cocktails. Some youths are contacted by these protest leaders to attack policemen in villages....
Most of these youths have expensive photography equipment, which they use to capture videos or images that are posted on their social networking websites.
0935 GMT: An interesting knock-on effect of the Bahrain crisis, with Irish academic institutions with operations abroad setting out new guidelines on human rights --- Mary Fitzgerald reports for The Irish Times:
When the protests that would later evolve into what became known as the Arab Spring first erupted early last year, few would have guessed that the ripples would be felt in educational circles outside the region, engulfing the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in separate storms of controversy.
The LSE’s director, Sir Howard Davies, resigned after extensive, and highly compromising, links between the university and Libya’s ruling Gadafy family – then brutally attempting to quash anti-regime demonstrations --- were revealed....
In Ireland, the RCSI, which has operated a medical campus in Bahrain since 2004, was left “blindsided” as one National University of Ireland (NUI) source puts it, when the Arab Spring arrived at the shores of the tiny Gulf island. Of the scores of medics rounded up as Bahraini security forces tried to snuff out pro-democracy rallies, three --- Ali Al Ekr, Basim Dhaif and Ghassan Dhaif --- had trained at the RCSI in Dublin. Friends and former colleagues of the detained doctors, including other RCSI alumni, campaigned for their release and pressured the college to condemn what was happening in Bahrain. The RCSI was widely slated, including in an article published in the Lancet, for its failure to take a public stand against a security crackdown that, as an international investigative commission has since confirmed, involved serious human rights abuses by the Bahraini authorities.
The episode, together with the LSE debacle, triggered much soul-searching within the RCSI and wider academic circles in Ireland.
0600 GMT: The Bahraini regime has tried to justify Saturday's arrest of Nabeel Rajab, the President of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, on the grounds that he called on Twitter for illegal marches, rioting, and violence, including the use of Molotov cocktails against police.
The opposition society Al Wefaq, in response, has put out a statement and video of Rajab from March (see top of entry):
We consider his detention for freely expressing his views to be irrational, unlawful and the action of a tyrannical government.
Mr. Rajab is being punished for openly and transparently expressing his views. Under international laws and norms he has the right to free expression free from harassment.
The detention of Mr. Rajab is another dark stain on the already tarnished record of the oppressive authorities in Bahrain. It is an unjustifiable act against a well-known human rights defender who has never attempted to hide his views or actions. Having only behaved within his internationally accepted rights, there are no logical reasons to arrest an activist who has always proven to be willing to interact with and respond to official bodies.
Former MP Matar Matar continues:
This is a video for Nabeel Rajab urging the crowds to stop blocking the roads in villages and not to throw Molotov or even stones on riot police.
He was calling all sides, including the opposition to review, all the events during the last year. He said that the opposition should review the part of their policy that might have played a role in creating fear among the Sunni community. Such massages and others represent consistent strategy by Nabeel Rajab that the movement should adhere to peaceful methods and contains all segments of the society.
Nabeel, and other prisoners of conscience should not be behind bars for their peaceful activities to address their opinion and defense for human rights.
Al Wefaq also criticised this weekend's detention of four women for protesting outside the Ministry of Interior in sympathy with political prisoners such as Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, now on Day 90 of his hunger strike.