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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora