Bahrain Crackdown: King Reinstates Citizenship of 551 amid Mass Trials


By Staff, Agencies
Bahrain's king has reinstated the citizenship of 551 people convicted amid a crackdown on dissent on the island.
The surprise royal decree, announced Sunday by the state-run Bahrain News Agency, gave no explanation for King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's decision.
However, the report said those stripped of their citizenship had been convicted in cases brought over the "protection of society against terrorist acts."
Bahrain has faced widespread international criticism for mass trials that resulted in hundreds losing their citizenship on this island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia.
Last week, 138 people lost their citizenship in a mass trial.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said then that the verdict brought to 990 the number of people ordered stripped of their nationality since 2012.

Saudi Arabia: 37 put to death in shocking execution spree


The execution of 37 people convicted on “terrorism” charges marks an alarming escalation in Saudi Arabia’s use of the death penalty, said Amnesty International today. Among those put to death was a young man who was convicted of a crime that took place while he was under the age of 18.
“Today’s mass execution is a chilling demonstration of the Saudi Arabian authorities callous disregard for human life. It is also yet another gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shi’a minority,” said Lynn Maalouf Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International.
Today’s mass execution is a chilling demonstration of the Saudi Arabian authorities callous disregard for human life. 
The majority of those executed were Shi’a men who were convicted after sham trials that violated international fair trial standards which relied on confessions extracted through torture.
They include 11 men who were convicted of spying for Iran and sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial. At least 14 others executed were convicted of violent offences related to their participation in anti-government demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a majority Eastern Province between 2011 and 2012. The 14 men were subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention and told the court that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated during their interrogation in order to have ‘confessions’ extracted from them.
Also among those executed is Abdulkareem al-Hawaj – a young Shi’a man who was arrested at the age of 16 and convicted of offences related to his involvement in anti-government protests. Under international law, the use of the death penalty against people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime is strictly prohibited.
Amnesty International understands that the families were not informed about the executions in advance and were shocked to learn of the news.
 “The use of the death penalty is always appalling but it is even more shocking when it is applied after unfair trials or against people who were under 18 at the time of the crime, in flagrant violation of international law,” said Lynn Maalouf.
All of those executed today were Saudi Arabian nationals. So far this year, at least 104 people have been executed by Saudi Arabia – at least 44 of them are foreign nationals, the majority of whom were convicted of drug-related crimes. In 2018, Saudi Arabia carried out 149 executions during the whole year.
“Instead of stepping up executions at an alarming rate in the name of countering terrorism, Saudi Arabia’s must halt this bloody execution spree immediately and establish an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty completely,” said Lynn Maalouf.
Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher, from the Shi’a minority and who were below the age of 18 at the time of the crime, remain on death row and at imminent risk of execution.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, regardless of who is accused, the crime, their guilt or innocence or the method of execution.  


Bahrain strips over 100 of nationality on 'terror' charges


A court jails 138 members of the Shia minority and strips them of citizenship for establishing a 'terror' cell.

A Bahraini court has sentenced 138 people to jail and revoked their citizenship on "terror-related" charges, the public prosecutor said. Their jail term varies between three years and life term.
The defendants were convicted of establishing a "terror" cell with links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ahmad al-Hammadi said in a statement on Tuesday.
A judicial source said all the defendants are members of the Shia community in the Sunni-ruled Gulf state.
The High Criminal Court handed out life jail terms to 69 of the defendants, the prosecutor said, adding they were sentenced for crimes including joining a "terrorist" group, bombings, attempted murder and receiving arms and explosives training.
Some members had received military training in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, Hammadi said.
It said the defendants had formed an Iran-linked cell it referred to as the "Bahraini Hezbollah" with the purpose of carrying out attacks in the country. The defendants have the right to appeal the ruling, it said.
Of those sentenced, 60 were in absentia, a defence lawyer said.
Rights group Amnesty International condemned the court's decision, saying "this amounts to mass arbitrary denaturalisation".

Periodic clashes

Bahrain has prosecuted hundreds of protesters in mass trials and banned main opposition groups. Most of the leading opposition figures and rights activists are imprisoned or have fled abroad.
Such trials, condemned by rights groups, became commonplace after a failed uprising in 2011 that was led by members of the Shia Muslim majority in the country and crushed with the help of neighbour Saudi Arabia.
Since the uprising eight years ago, the island nation has seen periodic clashes between protesters and security forces, who have been targeted by several bomb attacks.
The Britain-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy criticised the trial as "deeply unfair" and said Bahrain was using revocations of citizenship as a "tool of oppression".
Tuesday's decision took the number of citizenship revocations in Bahrain to 990, 180 of them this year, the institute said in a statement.
"A mass trial cannot produce a just result and rendering people stateless in a mass trial is a clear violation of international law," institute's director of advocacy Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said.
The government denies deliberately targeting the Shia political opposition, saying it is only acting to preserve Bahrain's national security.

Bahrain jails 138 for planning Iran-linked 'terror' group


High Criminal Court acquits 30 of 169 put on trial, revokes 138 citizenships

Dubai: Bahrain on Tuesday jailed 138 people and revoked their citizenship for plotting to form a "terror" group with links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the public prosecutor said
Court on Tuesday sentenced 69 defendants to life in prison over attempted murder, forming a terrorist group and causing explosions. They received prison terms of three years to life for having tried to build a Bahrain Hezbollah, similar to the Shiite militia active in Lebanon, said Ahmad al-Hammadi.
The High Criminal Court also sentenced 39 to ten years in prison, 23 to seven years, one to five years and seven to three years.
Some members had received military training in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, he said in a statement.
The court acquitted 30 of the 169 defendants who were put on trial on a multitude of charges. It also revoked the Bahraini citizenship from 138 and sentenced 96 to fines of BD100,000 each.
The charges also included forming and joining a terror group, training on the use of weapons and explosives, possessing and making incendiary devices and guns, funding a terror group, receiving and transporting funds for terrorist purposes, concealing weapons, ammunition and explosives and damaging public and private property.
According to case documents, Iranian leaders had ordered the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to work on unifying Bahraini terrorist groups and movements by holding several meetings in Iran and coordinating with terrorists in other countries.
The Bahraini group members were given technical, financial and logistical support to encourage them to unite their ranks into one group they named Hezbollah Bahrain, the public prosecution said.
The aim is to ensure that all the leaders and elements who had received terrorism training would work together, recruit more elements who were not known to the security agencies and train them in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.
Targets in Bahrain included security staff, public figures, police patrols, oil installations, business companies and vital areas with the aim of creating chaos, spreading fear, putting people's lives at risk and preventing the state institutions from functioning properly.
The charges were based on testimonies, confessions, technical reports and evidence collected from various sources.
Under Bahrain's laws, the defendants have the right to appeal the verdicts and take their case to the Court of Appeals and subsequently to the Court of cassation.


Bahrain draft law would protect journalists

Several attempts have been made to update country’s 2002 media law
Manama: Bahrain’s draft media law that covers print, visual, audio and online media, does not allow investigating a journalist, columnist, editor-in-chief, editor or the responsible director, unless the Ministry of Information and the concerned professional association are notified and their representatives are present.
The bill also states that no journalist should be held in custody in any case.
The draft, expected to be referred to the parliament for debate by the end of the month, guarantees the right of journalists and media professionals to exercise their duties freely, safely, independently and impartially, insures their rights to information and prohibits their arbitrary dismissal or being held in custody, said Information Minister Ali Al Romaihi.
The bill stipulates the freedom to issue newspapers, online news and publications by companies fully owned by at least five Bahrainis and registered in accordance with the commercial company laws.
It ensures that journalists, media professionals, and correspondents of newspapers, news agencies and foreign media are allowed to work freely, impartially and independently, after obtaining a license to practice from the Ministry of Information.
Al Romaihi who has been pushing for the adoption of a new law was responding to a query by the parliament Speaker about the status of the press law draft.
“The new law will reinforce the freedom of responsible media based on the provisions of the Kingdom’s constitution and Arab and international human rights conventions,” Al Romaihi said.
He stressed that the law guarantees the right of journalists to express their opinions and publish information, without prejudice to himself or being forced to reveal their sources of information, unless a court rules that concealment constitutes a threat to public order or public interest.
The minister added that the bill guarantees the right of the journalists and the media to obtain from their sources information, statistics and news that can be published in accordance with the law.
They also have the right to attend conferences, meetings and public gatherings in accordance with the regulations.
All official and private bodies should provide available information, news and statistics to journalists within an equal opportunity approach to the various media that does not affect the right of the people to information and knowledge, the draft said.
Under the draft law, the media have the freedom to report and cover cases being investigated or put on trial, without affecting the course of justice or intruding on privacy.
The draft allows the Public Prosecution exclusively to investigate and prosecute publication offences as stipulated by the law.
The court, during the investigation or trial, and at the request of the Public Prosecution, may order the suspension of a publication or the shutting down of an online site in case there is evidence it broke the law.
Bahrain’s current press law was promulgated in 2002. However, several attempts have been made to amend it to bring it more in line with the developments in the country.
King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa has often called for the adoption of a progressive press law to supplant the 2002 law.
Endeavours to improve living standards and bolster the national economy “must be accompanied by progressive laws that guarantee the independence of the press and the freedom of honest and responsible expression,” King Hamad said in an address to the parliament.
“We consider the media the guarantor of democracy and we regard independent media as our partner in the nation-building process,” he said.
Despite heavy lobbying by the Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) for a new law, the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament has consistently hesitated to amend the existing law, mainly as Islamist MPs have refused to “extend privileges to the members of the media” and insisted on including a clause to imprison journalists.


Khashoggi children have received houses in Saudi Arabia and monthly payments as compensation for killing of father


By Greg Miller

The children of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have received million-dollar houses in the kingdom and monthly five-figure payments as compensation for the killing of their father, according to current and former Saudi officials as well as people close to the family.
Khashoggi’s two sons and two daughters may also receive much larger payouts — possibly tens of millions of dollars apiece — as part of “blood money” negotiations that are expected to ensue when the trials of Khashoggi’s accused killers are completed in the coming months, according to the officials and others who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive talks.
The previously undisclosed payments are part of an effort by Saudi Arabia to reach a long-term arrangement with Khashoggi family members, aimed in part at ensuring that they continue to show restraint in their public statements about the killing of their father by Saudi operatives in Istanbul six months ago, the officials said.
The Khashoggi siblings have refrained from any harsh criticism of the kingdom, even as their father’s death provoked global outrage and widespread condemnation of the heir to the Saudi throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The delivery of homes and monthly payments of $10,000 or more to each sibling were approved late last year by King Salman as part of what one former official described as an acknowledgment that “a big injustice has been done” and an attempt “to make a wrong right.”
But the royal family is also relying on its wealth to help contain the ongoing fallout from the killing and dismemberment of the prominent Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributing columnist who was targeted for articles that were often critical of the government.
A Saudi official described the payments as consistent with the country’s long-standing practice of providing financial support to victims of violent crime or even natural disasters and rejected the suggestion that the Khashoggi family would be obligated to remain silent. “Such support is part of our custom and culture,” the official said. “It is not attached to anything else.”
As part of their preliminary settlement, the Khashoggi children were each given houses in Jiddah worth as much as $4 million apiece. The properties are part of a shared compound in which Salah Khashoggi, the eldest son, occupies the main structure.
A banker in Jiddah, Salah is the only Khashoggi sibling who intends to continue living in Saudi Arabia, according to people close to the family. The others reside in the United States and are expected to sell their new Saudi properties.
Salah, who has been responsible for financial discussions with Saudi authorities, declined to comment on the matter when reached by phone Monday. His desire to remain in Jiddah with his family has contributed to the siblings’ deference to the authorities and caution in their public statements over the past six months.
In October, the Saudi government released photos of Salah shaking hands with Mohammed, an image that was meant to show the crown prince offering condolences but was widely seen as an indication of the coercive power the royal family was exerting on Jamal Khashoggi’s children.
The writer’s two daughters, Noha Khashoggi and Razan Jamal Khashoggi, published an essay in The Washington Post last year in which they described their father’s hopes for changes in Saudi Arabia but emphasized that he was “no dissident” and did not accuse the crown prince or other Saudi officials of being culpable in his death.
Noha did not respond to a request for comment, and Razan could not be reached.
The monthly schedule of payments and prospect of eventual multimillion-dollar settlements would appear to give the Khashoggis a long-term financial incentive to remain quiet even as human rights organizations and critics of Saudi Arabia continue to demand accountability from the kingdom.
Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan said in an op-ed Monday, six months after Jamal Khashoggi’s death, that the Saudis “have adopted a strategy of evasion” that has “scapegoated expendable officials, seeking to quell international furor by staging a sham trial.”
Khashoggi’s second son, Abdullah, declined to comment when reached Monday. William Taylor, a Washington lawyer who has represented the family, also refused to discuss any compensation the family has received.
The negotiations with the family have been led by the outgoing Saudi ambassador to the United States, Khalid bin Salman, brother of the crown prince.
The CIA concluded with “medium to high confidence” that Mohammed had ordered Khashoggi’s killing, but President Trump has refused to accept that verdict about a close ally, saying, “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.”
Saudi officials have strenuously denied that Mohammed was involved, describing the slaying as a rogue operation carried out by a team that intended to subdue Khashoggi and take him back to Riyadh but killed him after a struggle at the consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi had gone to the diplomatic facility to collect paperwork needed to remarry.
U.S. intelligence agencies, relying in part on eavesdropping equipment placed in the Saudi Consulate by the Turkish government, have concluded that Khashoggi was strangled or smothered.
Saudi officials have yet to explain what happened to Khashoggi’s body. His killers are believed to have dismembered and disposed of it. Officials who have heard audio of the operation said that one of the Saudi operatives — who has a background in forensic crime-scene work — can be heard warning other operatives to play loud music to mask the sound of an electric device.
Saudi authorities have announced investigations of 21 people in connection with Khashoggi’s killing, including Saud al-Qahtani, an enforcer for the crown prince suspected by some of orchestrating the operation against Khashoggi.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five operatives who traveled from 
Riyadh to Istanbul and were in the consulate when Khashoggi was killed. They include Maher Mutreb, a former colonel in the Saudi intelligence service who knew Khashoggi when both worked in London at the Saudi Embassy.
If the men are convicted and sentenced to death, the Saudi system of justice could allow the Khashoggi family members to grant their father’s killers clemency as part of a “blood money” arrangement in which they might then be entitled to tens of millions of dollars.
It is unclear whether Khashoggi’s children would be required to forgive or absolve the killers to collect the payments.
Former Saudi officials and experts said that the royal court and government have incentives to seek such an agreement and avoid a situation in which only low-level operatives are executed for their role in a plot that was developed and orchestrated from high levels of government.
The issue of how far to go in protecting their father’s legacy has been a source of tension among the Khashoggi siblings, according to people close to the family. The daughters have at times pushed to be more outspoken about their father’s life and the kingdom’s ruthlessness, while the brothers have focused on maximizing the amount of money the family will collect.
At one point in the weeks after their father’s death, Abdullah Khashoggi told advisers working with the family that he wanted to punish the royal court by going after one of the crown prince’s prized possessions. “I want the da Vinci,” he said, referring to a painting by the Renaissance master that the crown prince paid $450 million for in 2017.
Souad Mekhennet contributed to this report.