Gulf states

Bahrain court sentences protesters up to 15 years

A Bahrain court on June 3 issued sentences to three protesters for allegedly taking part in anti-government protests as well as attempting to kill a police officer. The crimes were committed during an attack on police in a Shi'ite village near Manama which has been a hotbed of anti-government protests since 2011. The first accused protester has been sentenced to 15 years for attempted murder and taking part in the protests, while the other two protesters were given lesser sentences of 10 years and five years.

Bahrain rights activists on hunger strike

Two Bahraini human rights activists have intensified their hunger strike and are refusing fluids, according to a report released March 25 by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). According to the report Zainab al-Khawaja and her father, prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja began refusing fluids in response to being denied visits from their families. Earlier this month, the Bahrain court of appeals overturned the acquittal of Zainab al-Khawaja, who has been accused of insulting a government employee, and sentenced her to three months of imprisonment. She began her hunger strike on March 18. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison for his role anti-government protests by a military tribunal in June 2011. The Bahraini government has denied the report.

Bahrain: youth killed on uprising anniversary

A teenage boy was killed in clashes with police at a Shi'ite village near Bahrain's capital Manama on Feb. 14, as hundreds took to the streets to mark the second anniversary of the uprising in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. The youth was hit by shotgun fire in the village of Dia, Bahrain's major Shiite opposition bloc al-Wefaq announced on Twitter. Strikes and protests to commemorate the uprising were called by clandestine online groups such as the February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition. Security forces used tear-gas to prevent protesters from marching on the former Pearl Square, where activists camped for a month before being forcefully driven out in March 2011 (after which authorities demolished its iconic monument and changed the plaza's name). The two years of unrest in Bahrain have left at least 80 dead. 

Qatar: imprisoned poet appeals life sentence

A Qatari poet who has been sentenced to life in prison for insulting the Emir has been granted an appeal now scheduled for Jan. 27, according to his lawyer. Muhammad al-Ajami, 36, was imprisoned in November 2011 after a judge found him guilty of calling for the overthrow of the government of the Gulf sate. Al-Ajami was studying literature at Cairo University when the Tunisian revolution broke out in December 2010. Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, al-Ajami wrote a short poem, "Tunisian Jasmine," which he recited to private audiences. The audio of one performance appeared on YouTube, apparently without al-Ajami's knowledge. Al-Ajami was arrested months later when Qatari authorities took note of the video, and held in solitary confinement for nearly a year before being brought to trial. He was charged with "insulting" Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and "inciting to overthrow the ruling system"—an offense that carries the death penalty. Qatar's Court of First Instance sentenced him to a life term on Nov. 29, 2011. The sentence will now be reviewed by Qatar's Court of Appeal. (Al-Jazeera, Dec. 29; Consortium News, Dec. 12)

UAE arrests 18-year-old blogger: report

The Emirates Centre for Human Rights (ECHR) claimed Dec. 6 that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has arrested an 18-year-old blogger as part of a wider effort to crack down on perceived government opposition. The ECHR claims that UAE security forces searched the home of Mohamed Salem al-Zumer and confiscated several electronic devices before arresting him and transferring him to an unknown location. The rights group condemned this arrest and the continued practice of arresting peaceful dissenters. In the statement, the ECHR detailed further restrictive practices:

Riots rock Jordan, protests shake Kuwait

Angry protests exploded throughout Jordan on the night of Nov. 13, after the government announced an increase in fuel prices. Demonstrators burned tires, smashed traffic lights and blocked roads in several cities, as riot police responded with tear gas.  In Dhiban, a city of 15,000 south of the capital, Amman, protesters burned pictures of King Abdullah II—defying laws imposing a prison term for criticizing the king. In Salt, which has been a focus of popular discontent, protesters destroyed two cars outside the prime minister’s home, which was empty. And in Amman, thousands filled the circle outside the Interior Ministry near midnight, chanting, "Revolution, revolution," and "The people want the fall of the regime"—slogans made famous in Egypt and Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began. The fuel price hike is part of an effort to close the country's growing budget deficit and secure a $2 billion IMF loan. (RIA-Novosti, Nov. 14; NYT, Nov. 13)

Bahrain upholds convictions of teachers for organizing strike efforts

A Bahrain appeals court upheld verdicts against two teachers on Oct. 22 for organizing a teachers' strike early last year to support anti-government protests. At their first hearing in front of a military tribunal, the pair were convicted of using their positions as vice-president and president of the Bahrain Teachers' Association (BTA) to attempt to overthrow the Bahraini government through a teachers' strike that halted the educational process and "incited hatred" against the regime. No evidence has been presented that they used or advocated violence of any means, according to an Amnesty International backgrounder. Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb was sentenced to five years in prison while Jalila al-Salman was given a six-month sentence. Abu Dheeb has been detained for 18 months. Al-Salman was in confinement for five months but was released on bail. However, al-Salman has alleged torture while being detained.

Bahrain: police charged with torturing protesters

Seven police officers in Bahrain have been charged with torturing and mistreating medical professionals who were detained during opposition protests held in March 2011, authorities said Sept. 17. The police officers were trying to coerce the medical professionals into confessing that they committed misdemeanor assault and slander. The police officers' trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 1. The two police officers who are accused of committing the most serious infractions will be tried in the High Criminal Court, while the others will be tried in the Lower Criminal Court. Ten other officers remain under investigation.

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