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Swedish activist gets life sentence in Bahrain

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Swedish activist gets life sentence in Bahrain
12:12 CEST+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.

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