Bahrain places political prisoners under house arrest

Originally posted to The Middle East Monitor website, 16 September 2021

Bahrain has released 30 prisoners conditionally, including 27 political prisoners, under legislation allowing electronic monitoring and house arrest instead.

Under the 2017 “alternative sentence” law, prisoners who have served at least half their sentence in jail are allowed to complete it in other ways, including community service, rehabilitation courses and electronic surveillance. Last week, the King of Bahrain amended the law to allow a switch to non-custodial punishments at any point in a sentence.

According to exiled activist and director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Sayed Alwadaei, many of the 27 political prisoners placed under house arrest this week had been arrested as juveniles. “Nevertheless, they will continue to face severe restrictions on their liberty. In any case, these rare releases remain overshadowed by the continued incarceration of hundreds of political prisoners in Bahrain.” He called on the Bahrain government to release all political detainees “unconditionally”.

The released detainees included Kameel Juma Hasan, who was arrested at the age of 14 and sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2019. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said in May that it considered him to have been detained arbitrarily.

Documents seen by Reuters show that some release conditions include devices to monitor movements and bans on speaking to the press, using social media and political activities. Hassan Mushaima, who was arrested in 2011 and jailed for life for anti-government protests, declined a conditional release offer this week, his son Ali told the agency.

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy estimates that there are over 1,400 political prisoners in the Kingdom out of a total prison population of up to 3,800 people.

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