Bahrain jails photojournalist, detains rights activist

File - A Bahraini protester stands behind a portrait of jailed photographer Humaidan.

DUBAI: Sunni-ruled Bahrain upheld a 10-year jail term for a photojournalist Sunday and detained a human rights activist, as part of an ongoing crackdown over a 2011 uprising.

The tiny but strategic kingdom, just across the Gulf from Iran and home base for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, remains deeply divided, three years after authorities crushed the rebellion with Saudi-led military backing.

But persistent protests still spark clashes with police and dozens of Shiites face trial over their role in the uprising, while authorities have increased penalties for those convicted of violent offenses.

Bahrain’s appeals court decided Sunday to uphold a jail term handed down to award-winning photojournalist Ahmad Humaidan, despite appeals by rights group for his release.

Rights watchdogs say Humaidan was merely covering the Arab Spring-inspired pro-democracy protests that erupted among the Shiite majority in the Sunni-minority-ruled kingdom.

“Throwing photographers in jail isn’t going to keep either the protests or the accounts of what happens in Bahrain out of the world’s sight,” Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch said in June.

Humaidan, 25, was put on trial in February along with 29 other Shiites and accused of attacking a police station with Molotov cocktails and improvised explosives.

Authorities, meanwhile, have arrested Maryam al-Khawaja after she flew into Bahrain to visit her jailed father, leading activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, his lawyer said.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, jailed for life for plotting to overthrow the monarchy, staged a 110-day hunger strike in 2012 in protest against his imprisonment and is now on hunger strike again, lawyer Mohammad al-Jishi told AFP.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International call Khawaja, 54, a “prisoner of conscience.”

He is among seven defendants who have been handed down lengthy jail sentences for their role in the 2011 protests.

Khawaja’s daughter is co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, which has offices in Copenhagen and Beirut, and she had been hoping to visit him in jail when she was arrested and “stripped of her Bahraini nationality,” Jishi said.

Maryam, like her father, also holds Danish citizenship.

Authorities finally granted Maryam a visa but accused her of “attacking policewomen” at the airport and ordered her to be held for seven days pending an investigation, Jishi said.

He said Khawaja had begun his hunger strike on Aug. 25 and that he was “stable, even though he suffered from hypotension two days ago.”

Khawaja has been seen by a doctor 17 times in five days, the official Bahrain News Agency said.

BNA said that Khawaja had vowed in a letter to prison authorities to pursue his hunger strike until his release.

Also Sunday, an appeals court upheld the death sentence against a Shiite man who had been convicted of murdering a policeman during protests last year, and life terms for six co-defendants.

In another case, five-year jail terms for five others accused of plotting attacks during last year’s Formula One race were also upheld.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 01, 2014, on page 10.




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