News / Middle East

US Criticizes Severity of Bahrain Sentences

In this Sunday, May 8, 2011 file photo, a car passes a pro-government billboard in Muharraq, Bahrain, with pictures of jailed Bahraini Shiite and Sunni opposition leaders
In this Sunday, May 8, 2011 file photo, a car passes a pro-government billboard in Muharraq, Bahrain, with pictures of jailed Bahraini Shiite and Sunni opposition leaders

The United States is expressing concern about the severity of life prison terms handed down  Wednesday to Bahraini activists accused of plotting to overthrow the government of the Gulf kingdom in protests earlier this year. The human rights group Amnesty International meanwhile alleged that a “soft” U.S. approach to the case was a factor in the harsh verdict.

The Obama administration is criticizing the outcome of the trial in a Bahraini military court, but is in turn coming under criticism from a major human rights group for alleged “indifference” to the defendants’ fate.

A closely-watched trial of 21 Bahraini political activists, arrested for allegedly plotting the overthrow of the monarchy and colluding with foreign terrorists, ended with eight receiving life prison sentences and the rest lesser jail terms.

All but one of the defendants were Shiite Muslims who make up the majority of the population in the tiny Gulf state ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family.

Several of the accused were tried in absentia but seven of the eight defendants given life terms are in Bahraini custody.

Bahrain has been a key ally of Washington and hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet, though the Obama administration was critical of Bahrain’s tough tactics against the protests in February and March.

At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner expressed concern about the severity of the sentences and the fact that the civilians were tried in a military court.  “As President Obama said in his May 19th speech, such steps are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens. We understand that these cases will now go through an appeals process. We continue to urge the Bahraini government to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, conducted in full accordance with Bahrain’s international obligations, and to create the conditions for a meaningful, inclusive and credible dialogue," he said.

Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa has promised to open a national dialogue on political reform next month but trials are to continue, including a case against more than 30 doctors and nurses accused of supporting the protests.

Local and international human rights groups condemned Wednesday’s sentences among them Amnesty International, which called them “harsh, politically motivated and patently unfair.”

Amnesty’s Washington-based International Advocacy Director T. Kumar said the Obama administration, while championing human rights in other Middle Eastern counties, has been “half-hearted” about rights abuses in Bahrain.

He spoke to VOA in advance of a meeting with State Department officials on Bahrain. “United States policy is extremely disappointing. The way they reacted to abuses in the region is totally different from the way they react to abuses, what’s happening in Bahrain. We will claim that the sentences that were passed today is in part because of U.S. indifference, and soft approach to Bahraini authorities," he said.

Amnesty's Kumar said rather than engaging in “wishful thinking” about a Bahraini appeals process, the United States should demand the immediate and unconditional release of those sentenced Wednesday.

He said a wide majority of the more than 500 people detained in pro-reform demonstrations in Bahrain since February were peaceful protestors.

The United States has engaged in a high-level political dialogue with Bahrain including several visits by Assistant Secretary of State for Near eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.

Spokesman Toner said the State Department’s top human rights official, Assistant Secretary Michael Posner, was in Bahrain last week.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid