12.15.2004

Media Coverage of the Hunger strike in Bahrain Jail - Dec 14-15

Here is a collection of News Items that appeared in Newspapers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

Prosecutors meet jail hunger strikers
Gulf Daily News

By ROBERT SMITH

MANAMA

PROSECUTORS visited hunger-striking prisoners yesterday, to investigate alleged delays in getting their cases through the courts.
Meanwhile, relatives demonstrated outside the Justice Ministry, in Manama, to call for their cases to be speeded up.
Three more inmates are understood to have been taken to hospital after collapsing from not eating, sources told the GDN.

Prisoners being held at the Criminal Investigation Directorate, in Adliya, have reportedly refused food for almost a week in protest at alleged delays in the justice system.

Some of them have reportedly been in custody for up to nine months, with their cases being repeatedly adjourned by the courts.

Around 50 of their relatives gathered outside the courts yesterday to demand swift action for the men - five of whom are now said to have required medical treatment.

Around 75 inmates are on hunger strike, say relatives.

They claim the strikers are now being made to take cold showers, denied outdoor exercise, threatened with no family visits and refused phone calls.

Public Prosecution officials visited the cells on Monday to hear the inmates' complaints, according to a spokesman.

He said none had complained about being mistreated and any delay in being given medical treatment, as alleged by some realtives.

Technical reports relating to their cases are being forwarded to the Public Prosecution to investigate allegations of unreasonable delays, he said.

"Three or four public prosecutors went there, spoke to the inmates, saw their conditions and heard their complaints and demands - if there were any," the spokesman told the GDN.

"Technical reports are being immediately presented to the Public Prosecution by authorities." He added that hold-ups in completing technical reports - from laboratories or other departments - could be the reason why some of the men have not been released from custody while their case is being investigated.

Evidence

"Sometimes the Public Prosecution decides to put a person in detention while it evaluates the evidence against them," said the spokesman.

"We have to be sure, depending on the technical reports.

"The period of some inmates being in detention depends on the evidence and technical reports.

"Prosecutors tend to demand from the labs - and other places the reports come from - that they are done quickly to shorten the period of detention."

Bahrain human rights activists are now intervening on behalf of the prisoners and have expressed concern over their health and the length of their detention without conviction.

The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) wrote to authorities on Sunday requesting access to the inmates and hopes to be granted a visit today.

Meanwhile, senior officials from the now-dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) say they are forwarding prisoners' complaints to international human rights organisations.

"We have asked for details about each case and will prepare a report to send to international organisations such as Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch and the United Nations (UN)," said Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja, who was at yesterday's demonstration.

"This is not a new problem. It is a failure in the system. The problem is not that the system is slow - it is that prisoners cannot be held for so long without charge."

Those sentiments were echoed by lawyer and Bahrain Society for Public Freedom and Democracy Watch president Ali Al Arrayedh.

"The Public Prosecution here is dealing with accused people as though they are guilty from the beginning," he said.

"They can detain people for 45 days and the courts renew this automatically because there is too much paperwork to assess each case.

"This is bad for the defendants and their families because even if they are found to be innocent they may have lost their jobs.

"They may be held for five or six months, but there is no compensation if they are found not guilty."


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Hunger strike duo taken to hospital

http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/arc_Articles.asp?Article=98802&Sn=BNEW&IssueID=27269

By ROBERT SMITH

AT least two prisoners were reportedly taken to hospital yesterday after collapsing while on hunger strike. Jalal Ali Jassim and a second man, known only as Emad, are understood to have been transferred to a medical facility at the Police Fort, Manama.

Prisoners have been on hunger strike for the past five days and are now being denied access to hot water, phone calls and outdoor exercise, according to their relatives.

Authorities have threatened that visits to the prison may also be suspended if they continue with the strike, one family member told the GDN.

It is now claimed that up to 75 prisoners at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), in Adliya, are taking part in the hunger strike.

However, Interior Ministry officials earlier put the number at 35. The strike is being staged in protest at alleged delays in the Bahrain justice system - with some inmates spending up to nine months in the cells waiting to be dealt with by the courts.

Their relatives are planning to demonstrate outside the Justice Ministry, in the Diplomatic Area, today in protest.

Meanwhile, the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) wrote to authorities yesterday requesting immediate access to the prisoners.

It wants to investigate the conditions in which they are being held, the health of the prisoners and whether they are being denied their rights to a proper trial.

"I went to visit my brother yesterday, but he could barely talk," said one relative, whose brother is taking part in the hunger strike. "He told me the two other prisoners had been taken to hospital.

"He also said they are not being allowed to make calls and are being forced to take cold showers - even in this cold weather."

He was arrested last month for alleged possession of drugs, but his brother claims he is innocent.

The brother asked that they not be named in print.

Four other inmates - arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking - have been in custody for ninemonths and still have verdicts pending in their case.

Five arrested in another drug-related case are still waiting to be dealt with after seven months in custody.

One of the hunger strikers is Hani Ayyad, who was arrested nine months ago.
"I saw him yesterday and he said people are tired," his brother Adel Ayyad told the GDN. "They can't use the phone and they can't go outside."

Human rights activists want to visit as soon as possible. "We sent a letter on Sunday requesting a visit and we are waiting for a response," said BHRS member Abdulla Alderazi.

"Hopefully we will get one today.

"We want to go in there before the National Day holiday starts on Thursday." Calls to Interior Ministry officials yesterday were not returned.
On Sunday, the Public Prosecution said the prisoners were awaiting rulings from the Bahraini courts.

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Prisoners’ Families Protest in Bahrain Mazen Mahdi
http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4§ion=0&article=56081&d=15&m=12&y=2004
•Arab News

MANAMA, 15 December 2004 — The families of dozens of prisoners who began a hunger strike on Saturday in protest at their long detention without trial protested at the Ministry of Justice yesterday. The protest was made as a letter to the minister of justice with the prisoners’ demands was leaked to the media.

Family members said the number of prisoners on hunger strike had risen from 64 to 75. The Ministry of the Interior earlier denied that a strike was in progress but then later admitted that 35 prisoners were involved.

The protesters were joined by human rights activists from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), which was dissolved by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in September. Officials of the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) continue efforts to obtain a visitation permit for a
delegation, including a doctor to visit the prisoners and see the conditions they are being kept in.

Relatives of the inmates — some of whom have been in jail for nine months without being charged — allege that at least two of the prisoners have collapsed due to exhaustion. They also allege that officials at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) ignored pleas for help for nearly five hours before finally taking the inmates to a medical facility. One family member said: “They also took away the prisoners’ daily one-hour outdoor exercise rights in addition to barring them from making phone calls or smoking. They also denied the prisoners access to hot water for showers.”

The leaked letter said that the prisoners wanted those among them who are “sick” to be separated from the others. According to family members, “sick” refers to those suffering from AIDS and other contagious life-threatening diseases. The letter, written by 32-year-old Abdul Aziz Abbas, a father of three who has been in jail more than eight months awaiting trial, alleged inhumane treatment by jailers, a lack of basic rights, a lack of medical care and a lack of proper food.

BCHR member Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja said: “This situation exposes a malfunction in the system when people can be arrested and detained for months without being charged. The public prosecutor has unlimited power to renew detentions but this power should only be used in special circumstances instead of all the time.”

Al-Khawaja added that in accordance with international standards, the prisoners should have been charged within the first 24 to 48 hours or released. The head of the legal committee, lawyer Muhammad Al-Mutawa, said the BHRS had filed a request to meet with the prisoners yesterday and were still awaiting a response from the public prosecutor. No one from the public prosecutor’s office was available yesterday despite repeated efforts to contact officials there.



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DETAINEE DESCRIBES JAIL CONDITIONS IN LETTER
http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/arc_Articles.asp?Article=98803&Sn=BNEW&IssueID=27269
MANAMA

A FATHER of one of the inmates on hunger strike received a letter from his son yesterday, describing conditions inside the cells. The letter was written by father-of-three Abdulaziz Abbas, 32, on a piece of paper torn from a magazine.

He was arrested around eight months ago on drugs-related charges.

His father, Abbas Ali, said the court twice ordered for him to be released on BD500 bail.

"His family went to pay the Interior Ministry, but were refused," said Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) member Abdulla Alderazi.

In the letter, Mr Abbas claims that telephone calls and visits are being restricted.

"The law states that the person is not guilty until proven so and the person should not be punished or tortured mentally or physically or in any manner humiliating his dignity," said the letter, which was addressed to Justice Minister Jawad Al Arrayed.


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Families rally for detained relatives
http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/RegionNF.asp?ArticleID=143738

By Mazen Mahdi, Special to Gulf News Manama :

The families of prisoners who have been on a hunger strike since Saturday demonstrated outside the Ministry of Justice yesterday. They were protesting their relatives' long detention without trial.

The protesters were joined by human rights activists from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, which was dissolved by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in late September as well as officials from Bahrain Human Rights Society.

The representatives of rights groups said they were trying to obtain a visiting permit so that a delegation, including a doctor, could meet with the prisoners.

The dozens of inmates have also written to the Minister of Justice outlining their demands.

Relatives of the inmates said they are being held on drug-related charges for periods of up to nine months without being charged.

They also said at least two of the inmates have collapsed from exhaustion. Family members said the number of prisoners on hunger strike had increased from 64 to 75.

The Ministry of Interior, who earlier denied a hunger strike was taking place, said only 35 inmates were taking part in the strike.

Rights activist Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja said they would be offering assistance to the families and that their cases would be registered and presented to international organisations to help shed light on their situation.