PressTV & CNN – 2011-06-13 13:11:40
US Role in Bahrain Crackdown Exposed
MANAMA, Bahrain (June 13, 2011) — The crucial role of the United States and Britain in the brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in Bahrain has been exposed. According to the Morning Star newspaper, Bahrain received over $200 million in military equipment from US companies between October 2009 and October 2010, which were used against peaceful anti-government protesters in the country.
The arms sales were more than double the $89 million worth approved by Washington over the previous US financial year. Previously, the sales included military hardware for aircraft and military electronics. However, in 2010, the US government also approved the sale of $760,000 in rifles, shotguns and assault weapons to Bahrain. Scores of protesters have been killed and many others injured since the beginning of anti-regime protests in Bahrain in mid-February.
Despite international condemnation of Manama’s gross human rights violations, Washington has, so far, refused to condemn the brutal crackdown on protesters with US President Barack Obama expressing firm support for the Bahraini regime. Bahraini opposition groups have lashed out at the US for what they have described as Washington’s double-standards on the revolutions in the Arab world.
It is widely believed that since Bahrain is a key US ally in the Persian Gulf region and hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Washington prefers to remain silent about events unfolding in the country. Chris Bambery, a Middle East analyst, said in an interview with Press TV that Bahrain is also “a major banking center for British and American finance.”
Britain, which has played a key role in propping up hereditary monarchies in the Persian Gulf and supports the unelected regimes, has also played a significant role in crackdowns on Bahraini protesters. According to UK Ministry of Defense, members of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, who were sent into Bahrain in March to crush the popular uprising, had received military training from the British Armed Forces in Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain Tries Dozens at Military Courts
(June 12, 2011) â€“ Thirty-three people in Bahrain face military court hearings, despite the lifting of martial law in the country, reports say. The defendants, including two former lawmakers and a female poet, are accused of trying to topple the government and also face other charges. The opposition estimates that 400 civilians have been tried in military courts so far, including seven people who have been sentenced to prison terms of one to six years on charges ranging from incitement to murder.
The two former lawmakers, Matar Matar and Jawad Fayruz, who were captured in early May, appeared in court, being accused of “public incitement for regime change and deliberately spreading biased rumors, in addition to taking part in public gatherings,” AFP reported, adding that the defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, a renowned Bahraini human rights activist and poetess Ayat al-Qurmezi was sentenced to one year in prison on charges of participation in â€œassembly for the purpose of committing crimes, and instigating hatred to the regime.â€
“By locking up a female poet merely for expressing her views in public, Bahrain’s authorities are demonstrating how free speech and assembly are brutally denied to ordinary Bahrainis,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director Malcolm Smart in a statement.
The demonstrators have been calling for an end to the Al Khalifa family’s over-40-year-old rule over the Persian Gulf country, since demonstrations broke out in the country as part of the wider Islamic awakening in the Middle East and North Africa. The state-ordained court has already sentenced several people to death over the protests.
On March 14, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates deployed troops in Bahrain to help crush the nationwide anti-government rallies. Scores of people have been killed and many more arrested and tortured in prisons as part of the clampdown in the country — a longtime United States ally and home to a huge military base of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Bahrain Tries Ex-lawmakers, Imprisons Poet
CNN Wire Staff
MANAMA, Bahrain (June 12, 2011) — At least two former Bahraini opposition lawmakers went on trial Sunday, as a military court sentenced a 20-year-old poet to a year in prison. Matar Matar and Jawad Fairooz were charged with “spreading malicious lies in an attempt to overthrow the government,” an official in the Information Affairs Authority told CNN. Both men pleaded not guilty and will remain in custody until their next hearing, said the official, Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak. He said their lawyers have been given more time to prepare their cases. Both men were seized May 2, family members said.
The trials come after the small, strategically important Gulf kingdom was swept by protests earlier this year as part of the Arab Spring demonstrations. The legal proceedings began Sunday without prior notice, according to a Matar family member who asked not to be named for security reasons.
Fairooz’s lawyer only found out the charges once he appeared in court Sunday, the defendant’s brother Jamsheer Fairooz said. Jawad Fairooz said he was being treated well and looked to be in physically good condition but had “aged 10 years — his beard and hair have both gone white,” his brother said.
Matar, 35, was taken from his car by armed men in masks on May 2, according to a relative. He represented the biggest constituency in Bahrain, with approximately 16,000 people. Elected to the lower house of Parliament in October 2010, Matar resigned along with other Wefaq lawmakers earlier this year to protest the government crackdown on demonstrators. Wefaq is a Shiite party, the predominant religion in the kingdom whose rulers are Sunni.
Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab said the trials are “not (of) an international standard,” saying the defendants had “not only (had) no access to lawyer but even their families (were) not informed they were being taken court.”
Meanwhile, poet Ayat al-Qormozi, 20, was found guilty of assembling at Pearl Roundabout, the epicenter of anti-government demonstrations in the kingdom earlier this year. Additional charges included speaking out against Bahrain and the king. The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said she read a poem criticizing government policy at the Roundabout.
Mubarak, the government official, said Bahrain had freedom of speech, but that there were limits. “Freedom of speech in this country has its boundaries and cannot touch on the leadership, and cannot call for the overthrow of the government,” he said. Her poem, he said, “caused incitement and hatred to his majesty the king and to the prime minister” with lines such as “we are people who kill humiliation” and “assassinate misery.”
Amnesty International called the charges “unfair” in a statement after the sentence. “By locking up a female poet merely for expressing her views in public, Bahrain’s authorities are demonstrating how free speech and assembly are brutally denied to ordinary Bahrainis,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Al-Qormozi had been detained since March 30, after her father led security forces to her in the face of threats to his other children’s lives, a family member said. She alleges that she received electrical shocks to her face and was beaten with a hose while in detention, according to the relative, who asked not to be named for security reasons. Her mother and father were the only family members allowed in court, the relative said, adding that a lawyer was present with her.
Bahraini security forces went to her house around midnight a few days before she was detained, but she was not home, the relative said. The security forces broke things in the house and told the family they would return the following day for her. They returned the next night but she was still in hiding, the relative said.
The family member said security forces then took two of the poet’s four brothers and threatened them with guns in their faces. The father, fearing for his family’s lives, took the security forces to her. The family was assured that she would not be harmed, the family member said.
Bahrain’s government declined to comment on the specifics of al-Qormozi’s case, but said: “All detention centers conform to the conditions set down under international human rights regulations and the detainees are treated as innocent until proven guilty.”
Thousands of Bahrainis protested their government Saturday in a rally organized by the Wefaq party. Unafraid, pro-reform demonstrators hit the streets with their faces uncovered, said a journalist at the scene who was not identified for security reasons.
Rajab, the human rights activist, put the turnout at “no less than 10,000,” while police put it at 4,000, the national news agency said. Rajab said the march went off peacefully, with no security forces present. It was the second such protest since the government last week lifted emergency laws that were imposed in mid-March, allowing a crackdown on political leaders and journalists.
Bahrain’s ruling royal family — Sunnis in a majority-Shiite nation — accuses protesters of being motivated by sectarian differences and supported by Iran.
Ali Salman, the secretary general of al Wefaq, told the large crowds that he supports the government’s offer of dialogue but said he could not endorse it fully until the conditions for such talks were clear. Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa pledged cooperation from the government “to reach national consensus so as to ensure a better future for the kingdom,” the state-run Bahrain News Agency said.
Crown Prince Salman, who met with US officials in Washington Wednesday, thanked President Barack Obama for his backing of a national dialogue in Bahrain. Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and the United States has been concerned about the instability in the Persian Gulf island state.
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