Human Rights activists seek access to fasting prisoners

Jail visit plea by rights activists

Gulf Daily News, Bahrain

HUMAN rights activists are seeking immediate access to 35 prisoners who have gone on hunger strike to protest at alleged delays in the Bahrain courts.

The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) wrote to the Public Prosecution yesterday to request a visit.

It is concerned about the health of the inmates, some of whom have been in custody for nine months, while they wait to be dealt with in court.

The BHRS is also investigating whether they are being denied their right to a proper trial, said member Abdulla Alderazi.

"We want to see what their conditions are like and how their health is," he told the GDN yesterday.

"If we get permission a doctor and a lawyer will go with us.

"These men do have cases against them, but they should have the same basic rights to a proper trial.

"We want to check there is no violation of their legal rights."

The prisoners are being held in cells at the Criminal Investigation Directorate, in Adliya.

However, they are complaining because of the long duration of some cases in which verdicts are still pending.

On Saturday, the courts further adjourned two drug-related trials, until January 15.

One of the cases has reportedly been going on for nine months and the other for seven.

Mr Alderazi said it could take a few days to a week to arrange a visit if permission is granted.

"Normally the Interior Ministry or Public Prosecution responds to us - sometimes by telephone," he said.

"But from our experience if we don't have an official letter, they won't let us in.

"We will wait for their response to our letter and arrange a visit, but these people have been on hunger strike for a few days already so we want to step up the pressure."

Meanwhile, a Public Prosecution spokesman said yesterday that it was not responsible for any delays in the cases.

"There has not been any report of prisoners detained by the public prosecution awaiting trial going on hunger strike," said the spokesman.

"The prisoners on hunger strike are awaiting a ruling on their cases by the Bahraini courts and it is not up to our office to either speed it up or resolve the issue."

Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Bahrain

Gulf Daily News, Bahrain

Prisoners fast

THIRTY-FIVE prisoners have gone on hunger strike to protest against alleged delays in Bahrain's courts.

They are understood to be angry because some have been in custody for over nine months without being dealt with in court, said an Interior Ministry spokesman.

"They are refusing to eat in protest against the public prosecution's decision to extend their stay in custody," he said.

Cases involving two groups of prisoners arrested earlier this year for drug-related charges, went back to court yesterday after repeated adjournments.

But both cases were again adjourned until January 15 and the defendants' relatives say there is no end in sight.

One of those on hunger strike, at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), in Adliya, is a 30-year-old Bahraini accused with others of drug smuggling.

His 36-year-old brother met him in court yesterday and said he told him he stopped eating three days ago.

"We are worried. My mother doesn't know. If she did she would cry," he said.

His brother was one of four men arrested nine months ago after they were caught in a boat allegedly being used to smuggle hashish.

He was first detained by Saudi Arabia before being released into the custody of Bahraini authorities.

The father-of-two is demanding to be sentenced or released, at least on bail.

"He wants it to be finished," said his brother.

"They might give him 10 years, but we still don't know what's going to happen."

Five other Bahrainis were back in court yesterday after more than seven months in custody on drug-related charges.

They are among those now staging a hunger-strike after being further remanded in custody until January 15.

"I want justice. I demand a fair trial. I have lost everything since my arrest in May - my job, my family and my children," said a 28-year-old Bahraini.

"I have been rotting in custody for seven months. They should either sentence me or release me on bail until the trial.

"My reputation has been tarnished beyond repair even though the court may find me innocent."

Prisoners staged a similar protest back in August to protest at the long duration of trials.

More than 40 inmates were said then to have gone on hunger strike after a court renewed detention orders against five of them.

They had been arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs into the country and peddling narcotics.

Bahrain Prisoners on Hunger Strike

Mazen Mahdi, Arab News

MANAMA, 12 December 2004 - Tens of prisoners being held by Bahraini authorities on drug-related charges went on hunger strike yesterday to demand that they be released or tried. However, the Ministry of Interior denied that they had gone on hunger strike.

A spokesman for the prisoners said that 64 prisoners being held at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) began their strike yesterday noon when they refused to have lunch.

He added that two of the prisoners had begun their strike the day before.

"This is an open strike until they either charge us and put us on trial or shift us to the central prison system," he said.

"The majority of us have been here for months. They take us to appear in front of the public prosecutor and he orders to renew our detention for 45 days without looking into our cases."

The spokesman added that their demands are based on their right for trial as guaranteed by the Bahraini law.

"We need to know what will happen to us," said the spokesman. "They cannot leave us stranded like this with no trial and no release. We are Bahrainis and if they have nothing to charge us with they could release us on bail and ask us to appear in court when they can charge us."

A Ministry of Interior official who wished not to be identified said that the prisoners were being detained in accordance with the law. "They are being held based on orders by the public prosecutor who is reviewing their cases and the ministry is only enforcing the law," he said.

In August, 40 prisoners in the custody of the CID went on hunger strike to protest the continual renewal of the detention of five of them who were being held on drug-related charges.