Bahrain gives prison terms to arab spring protesters

A court in Bahrain handed down sentences of between 5 and 15 years in jail for 50 people on Sunday whom the authorities accused of belonging to a protest movement. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/world/middleeast/bahrain-dissidents-said-to-get-prison-sentences.html?ref=world  The court’s action, if it is confirmed, would appear to be part of a widening effort by the authorities to quash protests led by members of Bahrain’s Shiite majority against the Sunni monarchy, which has been accused by its opponents of discriminating against Shiites and monopolizing power. It seemed likely to fuel further criticism of the monarchy, which has imprisoned or detained a growing number of its most vocal opponents over the last two and a half years of protests.
Earlier this month, in an escalation of the crackdown, the authorities arrested Khalil al-Marzooq, a former member of Parliament and a leader in Bahrain’s mainstream opposition group, al-Wefaq, which had been engaged in dialogue with the government.

In June, the authorities announced the arrest of “key actors” in the February 14th Youth Coalition, named for the day in 2011 when protests erupted in Bahrain, joining a wave of popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the region.
Said Yousif al-Muhafda of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said that some of the defendants told the judge in the case that they had confessed after being tortured. He said the detainees included Naji Fateel, a human rights activist who was sentenced to 15 years.

Mr. Muhafda said it was implausible that Mr. Fateel and other activists who frequently spoke to the news media were part of a hidden conspiracy, as the government alleged.

“They don’t do anything in secret — they work publicly,” he said.

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