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Swedish activist gets life sentence in Bahrain

Swedish activist gets life sentence in Bahrain

Published: 22 Jun 2011 12:12 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Jun 2011 12:12 GMT+02:00

A Swedish citizen and democracy activist was sentenced to life imprisonment in Bahrain on Wednesday after being convicted of "terrorist activity", according to the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR).

The life sentence for Mohammed Habib al-Muqdad comes on top of a 20-year sentence he received in May for allegedly kidnapping a police officer.

According to Wednesday's ruling, al-Muqdad was guilty of “terrorist activity” with the intention to overthrow the regime.

“Since he was last released from prison he has been fighting for democracy in Bahrain,” Mohammed Al-Maskati, chairman of BYSHR told The Local.

Al-Muqdad was previously incarcerated for what the regime sees as “oppositional activity” after being arrested in August 2010 when he was held isolated without being able to contact his family or lawyer.

Al-Muqdad, who has dual-citizenship, was then brought in again and convicted in May together with eight others to 20 years in prison after allegedly kidnapping a police officer.

He is in his fifties and is a Muslim scholar from central Sweden, who lived in the country for many years, only returning to Bahrain in the 2000s after there had been some reforms in the country.

Swedish authorities tried to get to see him in conjunction with his last sentence but have met with difficulty as Bahraini law does not recognize dual citizenship.

According to Al-Maskati, al-Muqdad has been central in the protests carried out against the regime during the winter and spring, and claims that this is what is behind his harsh treatment.

“The government want to keep him from doing anything for a very long time because of his political activism,” said Al-Maskati.

Twenty other activists were convicted in the same trial as al-Muqdad. Seven received life sentences, nine got 15 years in prison and four received sentences of between two and five years in prison.

According to Al-Maskati, al-Muqdad and the others had tried to tell the judge about being subjected to torture while being held before the trial.

“We know that it is an unfair trial when a representative of the law refuses to listen to claims of ill-treatment in custody, ”Al-Maskati said.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has previously criticised the legal procedures in Bahrain where many imprisoned have reported being put through torture.

On the 1st of June, the Bahrain government lifted the emergency martial law in a bid to show the rest of the world that things had gone back to normal.

But according to al-Maskati very little has changed since then.

“It’s been 22 days since the emergency law was lifted in Bahrain, but we see no difference here. Sentences are still harsh and the persecution is ongoing,” al-Maskati told The Local.

The Local/rm (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:20 June 22, 2011 by edpe71
For me, its really difficult to have any sympathy for the now prisoner!
13:59 June 22, 2011 by Solith
Why? Is fighting for democracy, taking lessons learned from Sweden, something you have difficulty understanding? no-one, regardless of race, should be denied fair representation at trial, nevermind tortured.
14:15 June 22, 2011 by Roy E
Perhaps living in Sweden led this individual to forget that there can be real consequences for committing crimes.
14:35 June 22, 2011 by AnEye
Roy,

Or Perhaps living in Sweden led this individual to realize there should be freedom and democracy in country of his origin as well. But it depends on how one looks at this. You can look at this person trying to actively participate in protests and demonstrations against a family ruling the country for more than 200 years. OR that raising voice against the rulers = terrorism or crime. Your choice.
16:14 June 22, 2011 by edpe71
Fighting for human rights within the bounds of the law is one thing and admirable. Carrying on illegal activities in that country under this guise, including allegedly kidknapping a policeman, is another. When in Rome do as Romans do. He wasn't! So tough.
17:00 June 22, 2011 by Roy E
@AnEye

Kidnapping a police officer suggests otherwise.
17:48 June 22, 2011 by Solith
I have democracy in my country. Sweden promotes democracy and equal rights and so to have any individual carry that to his home country is admirable. He "allegedly" kidnapped the police officer, and was also subjected to torture - I imagine even the stoutest of trolls would admit to a crime of which they were innocent. So yes, I have sympathy for the guy. Once you have lived under a dictatorship, then you may cast aspersions on the actions of such a man.
19:19 June 22, 2011 by graphixperson
Allegedly is the key word. They'll claim that protestors commit crimes just to give them an excuse to further persecute them. I guess it's better in Bahrain where they make up your charges than in Syria where they shoot to kill on sight.
20:27 June 22, 2011 by helveeta
If you know you're doing something illegal, be prepared to suffer the consequences, and know the laws of the country you're committing them in. Don't expect any country you once lived in to bail you out. Sorry dude.
04:11 June 23, 2011 by wenddiver
If the definition of Democracy is the right to kidnap Police Officers, then after over twoo hundred years of history, a revoluton , a civil war and trillions of Dollars in elections we still don't have it in America.
05:54 June 23, 2011 by Playmaker
"Swedish" ha. a piece of paper don't make you swedish. i do agree and suport him in his bid for democracy. but lets not be to nieve here. does he really want true democracy. would he if he could make bahrain like sweden where women are just as equal and can do as they wish and marry who they wish wear want they like. it is hot over there. look how the girls dress here in summer just think what they would where there.

would he let christians build churchs, jews temples you know what i am saying just like any real democracy in the western cultur.

i think not. look at egypt as a perfect example, now the muslim brotherhood will take over and it will become more extream and then war on the jews. again. they have a nazi party starting. or look at gaza strip. hammas was "voted" in. and they ran on killing innocent childern. i hate to say it but i feel the muslim countries could never be like the west. a true democracy. its like two wolves and one sheep voting whats for dinner. if you get my drift.
12:39 June 23, 2011 by hisham
What is really surprised me is that commentators and journalists blame the pro-democracy activists. The demonstrators in Bahrain were so peaceful and all what they want is to achieve equality and human rights. But when Shiek oil chair was threaten there were always conspiration.

Simply, the comments shown their solidarity to Sheik Shirk oil in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
18:34 June 23, 2011 by james_g
I have my doubts about a Muslim scholar's commitment to democracy - though that's not to say it's impossible - but I have VERY serious doubts about the ALLEGED kidnapping of a police officer! Smells very strongly of a frame-up in view of Bahrain politics.

also, edpe71, "Fighting for human rights within the bounds of the law is one thing and admirable" - so what if the bounds of the law imposed by the regime you're opposed to don't allow for any opposition? Do you just lie down, roll over, and say 'Heil Hitler'?
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