Category: Gulf Island of Atmariar


February 16, 2016

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bahrain has arrested four American journalists covering the anniversary of its 2011 uprising amid a long crackdown on dissent in the tiny Gulf nation, witnesses said Monday.

Police said they detained four Americans for providing “false information that they were tourists,” while also alleging one took part in an attack on its officers. The U.S. Embassy in Manama said it was “aware of the arrest of four U.S. citizens in Bahrain” on Sunday but could not discuss the case due to privacy concerns.

Police said one of the journalists was a woman and three were men. Witnesses identified the woman as Anna Therese Day, an American freelance journalist from Boise, Idaho, who previously had contributed to The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast.

In a statement, The Post told The Associated Press that Day, who had blogged on the website and appeared on its HuffPost Live program, was not on assignment for the outlet at the time of her arrest. “The safety of journalists is of utmost importance to The Huffington Post and we have security measures in place for our reporters around the world,” the statement read. “Anna Day is not employed or contracted by The Huffington Post.”

Jesse Ayala, a friend in New York, said Day and her crew “were not on an exclusive assignment” when they were arrested. “The allegation that they were in any way involved in illegal behavior or anything other than journalistic activities is impossible,” Ayala said in a statement.

Photographs of the reporters working in Sitra, a largely Shiite community south of the capital that has seen repeated protests, circulated on social media, including one image of Day being filmed while speaking to a masked protester.

On Sunday, police arrested a photographer working with the group, the two witnesses said. Later that night, police surrounded the area with checkpoints and arrested the other three, they said. The witnesses spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested.

An Interior Ministry statement alleged one of the four journalists “was wearing a mask and participating in attacks on police alongside other rioters in Sitra.” The statement also said the journalists entered the country between Thursday and Friday on tourist visas.

“At least some of the arrestees were in the country as members of the international media but had not registered with the concerned authority and were involved in illegal activities,” the statement said, without elaborating on what those activities were.

Bahrain requires international journalists to obtain special media visas before entering to work. The island kingdom allows citizens of many countries, including the U.S., to get a tourist visa on arrival. Obtaining a media visa takes several days, and activists say Bahrain has denied media visas for some journalists since the 2011 protests.

A statement on the state-run Bahrain News Agency said the journalists had “been afforded full legal rights in line with the kingdom’s procedures and constitution while investigations continue.” Bahraini officials did not respond to questions from the AP about the arrests.

U.S. Ambassador William V. Roebuck also met with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa on Monday, according to a late statement on the Bahrain News Agency. The 2011 protests in Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, were the largest of the Arab Spring wave of demonstrations to rock the Gulf Arab states. They were driven by the country’s Shiite majority, who demanded greater political rights from the Sunni-led monarchy.

The protests were quashed after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent in reinforcements. Bahrain blamed regional Shiite power Iran for stirring up the demonstrations, though a government-sponsored investigation into the unrest said there wasn’t a “discernable link” between the protests and the Islamic Republic based on the information the government gave them.

Bahrain’s government committed to a number of reforms in the wake of the 2011 demonstrations, but low-level unrest continues, particularly in Shiite communities. Small groups of activists frequently clash with riot police and bombs occasionally target security forces. Hundreds of Bahraini youths protested Sunday on the fifth anniversary of the uprising.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called for the immediate release of the American journalists, saying at least six other reporters are being held by the kingdom over their work. “It is sad that the fifth anniversary of the protests is marked by the arrest of yet more journalists in Bahrain, which has since become one of the worst jailers of journalists in the Arab world,” said Sherif Mansour, the committee’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.

Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report.

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February 08, 2016

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — President Vladimir Putin has hosted the ruler of Bahrain for talks focused on the Syrian crisis and economic cooperation.

Putin hailed Bahrain as Russia’s “important partner in the Gulf and the entire Middle East” at the start of the talks Monday in the Russian president’s residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Putin presented Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa with a horse of an ancient Akhal-Teke breed, which has won several international competitions. The king gave the Russian president a sword made of Damascus steel.

Speaking after the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the two countries agreed to boost economic and military ties. He said both countries spoke in support of Syrian peace settlement.

June 20, 2015

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A top Bahraini opposition leader was released Friday after more than four years in prison for his role in protests calling for reform in the Gulf kingdom.

The WAAD (National Democratic Action Society) group confirmed on its official Twitter account that Ibrahim Sharif was released Friday. Sharif was sentenced in June 2011 to five years in prison for plotting to overthrow Bahrain’s 200-year-old monarchy.

Sharif was one of 20 prominent pro-democracy activists calling for political reforms who were convicted by a military-led tribunal after the government cracked down on them. He was leading WAAD at the time of his arrest in March 2011.

Bahrain’s majority Shiites, inspired by Arab Spring protests elsewhere, launched an uprising seeking to limit the wide-ranging powers of the ruling Sunni dynasty. The strategic island nation is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Brian Dooley, a program director with Human Rights First, applauded the release. “More than four years after President Obama called for the release of peaceful opposition leaders in Bahrain Ebrahim Sharif is finally out,” he said in a statement. “This is a long overdue move, and he should never have been jailed in the first place.”

21 December 2014 Sunday

King Abdullah II of Jordan on Saturday arrived in the Bahraini capital Manama for talks with the Gulf state’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

King Abdullah’s visit to Bahrain comes only one week after he paid a visit to Saudi Arabia where he met with King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz.

At Bahrain International Airport, the Jordanian King was received by King Al Khalifa, the official Bahraini news agency said.

It added that the two leaders held “cordial talks” later about cooperation between their respective states.

Earlier in the day, Jordan’s official news agency said the King would head to Bahrain for talks with King Hamad on means of bolstering bilateral ties.

The Jordanian King’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week came only three days after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi paid a visit to Amman and held talks with King Abdullah II.

Talks between the Egyptian President and the Jordanian monarch reportedly focused on the Middle East peace process and the situation in both Syria and Iraq.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/151306/jordanian-king-arrives-in-bahrain.

November 30, 2014

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Pro-government candidates took the majority of contested seats in Bahrain’s parliamentary election on Sunday, although 13 independent Shiite candidates won mandates despite a boycott by the main opposition group, official results showed.

The Shiites, a majority in Sunni-ruled Bahrain, lost seats compared to the previous vote four years ago, in large part due to the boycott by the al-Wefaq group. In total, only five candidates from established political organizations won seats — the lowest number since elections in 2006.

It was the country’s first full parliamentary elections since Shiite-led protests against the Sunni monarchy erupted in February 2011. Bahrain’s parliament, or National Assembly, is comprised of 80 seats — 40 royally-appointed in the upper house and 40 elected seats in the lower house. The lower house has limited powers to question ministers. Its members cannot pass laws unless the king signs off.

Among the winners were three women, all of them Shiite. Four seats also went to male candidates from Sunni Islamist blocs, including two from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic Menbar group. The Western-allied Arab nation hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and is part of the U.S.-led coalition striking the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The United States called the elections “an important opportunity to address the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis” even though some mainstream political groups did not participate, according to a statement released by State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. She added that the U.S. encouraged the Bahraini government and political organizations “to continue to work towards national reconciliation” and “work in good faith to resolve existing tensions.”

Bahrain has been roiled by low-level unrest over the past nearly four years. Shiites say the government is failing to enact political reforms and address other grievances in the wake of the protests. Justice Minister Khalid Bin Ali hailed the elections as a sign that citizens want to be represented in parliament and not on the streets.

Al-Wefaq dismissed the elections as a “sham” and said voter turnout did not exceed 30 percent. The government says voter turnout was 52.6 percent. “Bahrainis deserve a country that they can truly participate in the decision-making of. They do not deserve and will not accept elections that further marginalize them,” the group said in a statement.

The constitution requires that all members of parliament swear loyalty to the country and the king.

2014-11-22

MANAMA – Bahrain went to the polls Saturday for its first legislative elections since a failed uprising in 2011, with the opposition boycotting the vote.

Bahrain’s electorate of almost 350,000 is being called to choose 40 deputies. Most of the 266 candidates are Sunnis.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) and are due to close at 8:00 pm. Municipal elections are being held at the same time.

In Rifaa, a Sunni-dominated district south of Manama, dozens of people, mostly men dressed in traditional long white robes, lined up ahead of the start of voting.

“This election will help the development of the country under the leadership of the king,” said Naima El-Heddi, a civil servant in her 30s.

Voters were scarcer further north in the Shiite village of Jidhafs, where a witness reported seeing just 100 people casting ballots in the first two hours.

The boycott means turnout will be a key marker of the validity of the vote.

Information Minister Samira Rajab stressed ahead of the polls that the government would not tolerate “chaos, unrest and foreign meddling” — a reference to Shiite Iran.

Attacks that cause death or injuries can now be met with capital punishment or life imprisonment.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=69031.

September 19, 2014

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the tiny island nation of Bahrain on Friday to protest a proposal by the country’s leadership for legislative, security and judicial reforms.

The rally by members of the Shiite opposition came a day after the crown prince, Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, issued a statement summarizing proposed changes that included redefining electoral districts, promises of judicial reform and new codes of conduct for security forces.

The statement follows on-and-off again talks between opposition members and the government aimed at bringing about a political solution to more than three years of unrest. Bahrain is a strategically important Western ally, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. An opposition movement dominated by the country’s Shiite majority is demanding greater rights from the ruling Sunni monarchy.

The government moved to crush an Arab Spring-inspired uprising in 2011 with the help of security forces from Saudi Arabia and other neighboring Gulf Arab states. Dozens of protesters have been killed, as have some members of the security forces.

Protesters and opposition leaders on Friday dismissed the government’s plan as offering too little toward their goal of greater power-sharing in the kingdom. “We consider this letter to be a unilateral approach,” said Abdul-Jalil Khalil, a leading member of the main Shiite opposition bloc, al-Wefaq.

2014-07-20

DUBAI – Bahrain has filed a lawsuit to suspend Al-Wefaq’s activities for three months after the largest Shiite opposition group violated the kingdom’s law on associations, the official BNA news agency reported Sunday.

Political parties are banned in Bahrain, as in other Gulf Arab monarchies, and Al-Wefaq has the status of an association.

The ministry of justice said Al-Wefaq must rectify its “illegal status following the annulment of four general assemblies for lack of a quorum and the non-commitment to the public and transparency requirements for holding them,” as per Bahraini regulations, said BNA.

The ministry said it “filed the lawsuit following the insistence of Al-Wefaq on breaking the law… as well as its failure to amend violations related to its illegal general assemblies and the consequent invalidity of all its decisions,” BNA reported.

Al-Wefaq has led the protest movement that started in February 2011 by Bahrain’s Shiite majority against the ruling Sunni regime and has repeatedly called for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.

Earlier this month, Bahrain’s chief prosecutor charged the head of Al-Wefaq, cleric Ali Salman, and his political assistant, ex-MP Khalil Marzooq, with violating a law on foreign contacts after they met the US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski.

Bahrain has said the meeting at the US embassy violated the law stipulating that contacts between political associations and foreign parties “should be coordinated with the foreign ministry and in the presence” of its representative.

Manama had told Malinowski, who is the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour, that he was “unwelcome” and should “leave immediately.”

Bahrain is a strategic archipelago just across the Gulf from Iran. Washington is a long-standing ally of the ruling Al-Khalifa dynasty, and Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=67204.

May 24, 2014

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A prominent human rights activist in Bahrain was released from prison on Saturday after spending nearly two years behind bars.

Nabeel Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to three years in 2012 on charges of encouraging “illegal gatherings” tied to anti-government protests in the country. An appeals court later reduced his term by a year.

After his release from prison, Rajab was greeted by dozens of supporters and stopped to visit his mother’s grave before heading home. The activist is a key icon for the protest movement against the Gulf Arab monarchy’s Sunni rulers. Since 2011, the country’s majority Shiites have been protesting, demanding greater rights and political freedoms.

A statement from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said Rajab was imprisoned for “advocating peaceful demonstrations to defend the civil and human rights of all the citizens in the country.” Rajab told The Associated Press that he is happy to be out after more than 600 days in prison, and called for the release of all political prisoners. He said stability can only be achieved “through respect for human rights.”

“After two years in prison, I see Bahrain’s political environment as more difficult and still without a roadmap for real reforms,” he said. In mid-2012, Rajab was also sentenced to three months for his comments on Twitter about Bahrain’s prime minister. His conviction was overturned on appeal during his prison sentence for taking part in protests.

Also on Saturday, thousands of people marched in a funeral for 15-year old Sayed Mohsen, who died during protests earlier this week in Sitra, south of the capital, Manama. The procession turned violent when mourners clashed with security forces nearby. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Mohsen’s family and the country’s main opposition group Al Wifaq said the teenager died after being shot in the chest at close range with bird shot — a weapon commonly used by Bahraini police. The country’s Interior Ministry said police were investigating the circumstances of the death. The ministry said police in Sitra reacted after being attacked with firebombs Wednesday during a funeral procession of a man who had died earlier in a bomb blast.

“While the specific circumstances in which Sayed Mohsen was shot remain unclear, the use of force in policing public assemblies … must conform to the requirements of necessity and proportionality; and firearms may only be used as a last resort,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

The rights group urged an independent and transparent inquiry into the teenager’s death. The opposition in Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, claims that at least 100 people have been killed in the past three years of protests.

Sun Mar 30, 2014

A court in Bahrain has sentenced 13 pro-democracy protesters including several teenagers to life in prison, as the Al Khalifa regime steps up its crackdown on dissent.

The court issued the verdicts on Sunday after convicting the defendants of allegedly attempting to kill a policeman and participating in an anti-regime protest outside the capital city of Manama in March 2012.

Mohammad Al-Tajir, a lawyer for the convicted Bahrainis, said another person was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the same case. He added that the defense plans to appeal.

On March 26, another court in Bahrain handed jail terms of up to 10 years to 29 anti-regime protesters.

The prosecution accused the men of being behind an attack with petrol bombs and iron rods on a police center in the village of Sitra, south of Manama, in April 2012. A policeman was wounded in the incident.

The defendants, however, dismissed the accusations, insisting that they were tortured and their confessions were obtained under duress.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds injured and jailed by the regime forces since the uprising broke out.

Last month, Amnesty International denounced the “relentless repression” of anti-regime protesters in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, blaming Bahraini security forces for their repeated use of “excessive force to quash anti-government protests.”

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/03/30/356600/bahrain-sentence-13-protesters-to-life/.