by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 9, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1432)
News of Shaikh Hassan’s deteriorating health came from a government appointed prison physician who said his cancer had returned.
Shaikh Hassan Mushaima, the 64-year-old opposition leader, symbolizes the plight of the Bahraini people that have been subjected to a brutal crackdown by the illegitimate ruling Khalifah family since last February. He is serving a life sentence for no other “crime” than calling for respect of the rights of the Bahrainis whose clear majority is Shi‘i. Shaikh Mushaima is also a cancer patient who had returned from Britain earlier this year after undergoing medical treatment. In prison, he has been denied proper treatment causing alarm among his family and supporters. Equally worrying, he has been injected with unknown substances on three separate occasions over his strenuous objections prompting fears that the authorities are trying to eliminate him because of his overwhelming popularity among the Bahraini masses.
News of Shaikh Hassan’s deteriorating health came from a government appointed prison physician who said his cancer had returned. The ailing opposition leader recently went on a hunger strike together with 13 other political prisoners over the regime’s torture, humiliation and mistreatment of women protesters. The regime’s security personnel have also molested nurses in hospitals in a society where women’s modesty is highly respected. Far from punishing the culprits to put an end to such scandalous behavior, the regime’s military-run National Security Court on September 29 sentenced 20 doctors and nurses to terms ranging from 5 to 15 years. What was their crime? They were doing their professional duty by treating wounded patients. The regime interpreted this as support for people opposing the regime.
Rupert Colville, an officer with the Geneva-based UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said defendants’ lawyers were given little time to prepare proper defence. He said the military court failed to investigate allegations of torture and conducted some trials in less than 10 minutes. “For such harsh sentences to be handed down to civilians in a military court with serious due process irregularities raises severe concerns,” Colville said in Geneva. Some defendants were found guilty of nothing more than the exercise of free speech, while others — like doctors and nurses — were sentenced for doing their professional duty. The commander of Bahrain’s defence forces, who is a member of the ruling family, appoints all judges to the special military court.
Four days later (October 3), a military court handed down more harsh sentences to protesters that had demanded an end to oppression and respect for people’s fundamental rights. Fourteen people were given life sentences and 15 others sentenced to 15 years in prison for the alleged attempted murder of a soldier, vandalizing buildings at the University of Bahrain and “inciting hatred of the ruling system,” according to the Bahrain News Agency. Six more people received 15 years each for intent to murder several people at the university, while a seventh was sentenced to 18 years. One protester was sentenced to death for allegedly killing a police officer.
Bahrain’s brutal crackdown is backed by the Saudi regime whose Saudi Interior Minister Nayef (who is about to become the Crown Prince after the death of Prince Sultan) has played the role of principal instigator. He has provided billions of dollars in aid as well as played a leading role in recruiting Pakistani mercenaries to serve in the Bahraini security forces. So far the regime’s forces have killed 41 people; nearly 1,000 people have been fired from work for participating in anti-government demonstrations. The Bahrainis’ agony continues.
Despite repeated promises, the regime has instituted no reforms. Instead, it has resorted to brutal tactics to suppress peaceful dissent.