Coronavirus and Bahraini political prisoners news

Banner by Zaanstad prisoners, photo by Jolanda van Velzen

This photo by Jolanda van Velzen in Zaanstad in the Netherlands shows a banner made by inmates of the local prison. It says: ‘We stay inside. So should you‘. Apparently, in the Zaanstad prison there is space for spatial distancing during the coronavirus crisis. So, the prisoners don’t lose their sense of humour.

The situation in many prisons all over the world is much worse.

From Reuters news agency:

In overcrowded cells, Bahrain’s political prisoners fear coronavirus threat

9 April 2020

DUBAI – When jailed Bahraini activist Abdullah Habeeb Swar developed a bad cough that lasted several days, his 14 cellmates feared he might have contracted the coronavirus and would spread it through their overcrowded wing.

They share a cell designed to sleep eight in one of three wings in Manama’s Jaw prison reserved for detainees sentenced on security-related charges.

“You can imagine how scared they were,” Swar told Reuters by telephone, referring to last month’s coughing fits.

He is one of hundreds of opposition politicians, activists, journalists and human rights defenders sentenced in mass trials. Detained in 2019 after six years in hiding and serving a 40-year term, Swar said he was not seen by a doctor.

Western-allied Bahrain has come under pressure from human rights organisations over prison conditions including overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of medical care.

In common with other countries in the Middle East and beyond, it has freed some prisoners … in response to the epidemic. The country has recorded more than 800 COVID-19 cases with five deaths.

But the around 1,500 freed so far exclude individuals jailed on national security grounds.

Rights groups including Amnesty International last week jointly called Bahraini authorities to release those who “peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of expression”, especially elderly prisoners or those with existing health conditions.

“The authorities don’t like to be seen to bend to political pressure,” said Marc Owen Jones of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.

Mass trials became commonplace in Bahrainhome to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet – after a failed uprising in 2011 … Since then, the country has seen sporadic clashes between protesters and security forces


Rights group have particularly voiced concern for ageing detainees or those with medical conditions, including opposition leader Hassan Mushaima and activist Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.

Al Khawaja turned 60 this week and he is the youngest,” said Ala’a Shehabi, a researcher at University College London.

Prominent among younger political detainees are Sheikh Ali Slaman, leader of dissolved opposition group al-Wefaq, and human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.

Prison authorities have banned family visits as a precaution, inmate Ali Hussein al-Haji told Reuters by telephone. But he and other prisoners said most prison guards and other staff do not wear protective gear.

“If coronavirus were to spread in Bahrain’s overcrowded prison, the effect will be catastrophic,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

Lords call on government to save Bahraini torture victims from execution: here.

17 thoughts on “Coronavirus and Bahraini political prisoners news

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  5. Kom in actie tegen de opsluiting van mensen zonder verblijfsrecht!

    Vanwege de coronacrisis kunnen mensen zonder verblijfsrecht in het algemeen niet worden uitgezet, want er is nauwelijks vliegverkeer. Toch zitten er nog steeds veel mensen zonder papieren opgesloten in uitzetgevangenissen. Een van hen is de Soedanese vluchteling Ali al-Helou Tiyah, die helaas opnieuw gevangen zit in het Rotterdamse detentiecentrum. Het Meldpunt Vreemdelingendetentie heeft de overheid opgeroepen om opgesloten mensen zonder verblijfsrecht met het oog op de coronacrisis vrij te laten. Maar daar heeft de regering nog nauwelijks gehoor aan gegeven. Het is dan ook hoog tijd om de druk te vergroten op de regering en op de Dienst Terugkeer en Vertrek (DTV) van het ministerie van Justitie. In samenwerking met het Sudanese Democratic Forum roept Doorbraak op om te protesteren tegen de opsluiting van mensen zonder verblijfsrecht. Lees meer:


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  10. GN Saibana is one of the most prominent political prisoners in India and
    one of the main leaders of the unification efforts of the Indian
    revolutionary and anti-imperialist movements.

    Press release by /The Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr. GN

    Release Dr. G. N. Saibaba from Nagpur Central Jail

    In the face of an imminent threat to his life exacerbated by the
    COVID-19 virus

    Over the last six years, the health of Dr. G. N. Saibaba, incarcerated
    in Nagpur Central Jail, has deteriorated alarmingly. Prof. Saibaba is a
    teacher of English at the University of Delhi and is a human rights

    Due to post-polio residual paralysis of his lower limbs, he is over
    ninety percent physically disabled and wheelchair bound. Since
    incarceration, he has developed severe additional ailments that have
    resulted in irreparable loss to his health. On May 9^th 2014, he was
    abducted from Delhi by the Maharashtra Police and charged under several
    sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). None of
    the electronic documents supposedly seized from G.N. Saibaba’s house
    were displayed in the court or tested through any witness or made part
    of the course of evidence. These electronic documents were directly
    brought only as part of 313 statement, and not the main course of
    evidence. The judge rejected all Supreme Court judgments regarding
    bringing these documents which were not part of the course of evidence
    as part of 313. These documents used were not a part of the trial.
    Gadchiroli Sessions court gave life imprisonment on March 7^th 2017 to
    Dr. GN Saibaba along with five others. Excluding a brief reprieve in
    2016, he has been kept in the solitary /anda/ cell of Nagpur Central
    Jail since arrest. With Indian jails filled beyond capacity and lacking
    in basic medical facilities, and with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping
    across the country particularly affecting the aged and those with
    serious pre-existing medical conditions, Dr. G. N. Saibaba’s future
    looks exceedingly bleak.

    Throughout his political life, Dr. G. N. Saibaba has been a vocal
    advocate for the rights of Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and other oppressed
    communities. He has spoken against the state sponsored attack on people
    in Central India under Operation Green Hunt. He stood by his students
    and advocated for democratic principles and social justice within the
    university. He has never shied away from speaking his mind and has
    worked tirelessly to uphold the spirit of democracy. While hospitals in
    Nagpur and jail authorities have stated that they lack of facilities
    needed to care for a person with such severe disabilities and ailments,
    he remains incarcerated, untreated and denied bail. Nonetheless, he
    retains the spirit of struggle, even when dehumanised by the lack of
    medical facilities and denied the basic fundamental right of a life with

    Dr. G. N. Saibaba suffers severe physical pain caused by the
    degeneration of muscles in his hands. He is plagued by pancreatitis,
    high blood pressure, Cardiomyopathy, chronic back pain, immobility and
    sleeplessness. The weather conditions of Nagpur, magnified by the
    windowless solitary /anda/ cell have even strained the functioning of
    his heart. Consequently, his physical ailments intensified while the
    lack of pain relief and neglect due to inadequate medical facilities
    further debilitate his already fragile health. Despite interventions
    made by the National Human Rights Commission and authorities of
    international human rights organisations, the Courts have repeatedly
    denied him bail.

    The Supreme Court of India has upheld the right to life and reflected on
    prisoners observing that “the treatment of a human being which offends
    human dignity, imposes avoidable torture and reduces the man to the
    level of a beast would certainly be arbitrary and can be questioned
    under Article 14”. India is also a signatory to the International
    Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which recognises the
    inherent dignity of human beings and the ideal of free human beings
    enjoying civil and political freedom. Furthermore, India has ratified
    the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on
    October 1^st 2007. India has even adopted the United Nations Resolution
    70/175 on Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also
    known as the Nelson Mandela Rules). These covenants, conventions and
    resolutions ensure life and dignity to all persons, prisoners and
    persons with disabilities and layout the essential parameters necessary
    for its implementation. When the National Crime Records Bureau states
    that prisons across the country prison are filled at 117% with
    Maharashtra exceeding the average at 149%, the impact of the spread of
    the COVID-19 virus in such a space is likely to be a death sentence for
    Dr. Saibaba.

    /The Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr. GN Saibaba/fears for
    his life and appeals to the Government of India and the Government of
    Maharashtra for the immediate release of Dr. G. N. Saibaba, in light of
    the impending threat to his life from the COVID-19 virus. The committee
    urges all democratic organisations and individuals to appeal for the
    release of all political prisoners.

    Prof G. Haragopal

    Prof Jagmohan Singh

    Prof Manoranjan Mohanty

    Prof Amit Bhaduri

    Arundhati Roy

    Nandita Narain

    Karen Gabriel

    Sumit Chakravorty

    Ashok Bhowmick

    Sanjay Kak

    PK Vijayan

    Vikas Gupta

    Biswajit Mohanty

    Rakesh Ranjan

    Hany Babu

    Srikrishna Deva Rao

    Seema Azad

    AK Ramakrishna

    N Raghuram

    Anirban Kar

    Subrat Kumar Sahu


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