13/09/2010 – 7:56 am | Hits: 431
James Calderwood, Foreign Correspondent Last Updated: September 13. 2010 10:26PM UAE
Almost two dozen Shiite activists were arrested last month in Bahrain on
charges that they were involved in an alleged coup plot. Hasan Jamali / AP Photo
MANAMA // The families of Shiites arrested for alleged involvement in a terrorist network continued a vigil yesterday to protest against their treatment.“It’s been 25 days and we don’t know anything. I don’t know if he’s alive or dead,” said the wife of one detained man during the three-night protest where influential Bahrainis addressed families of the prisoners and the press at the home of a prominent Shiite politician in Nuwaidrat on Sunday evening. “We only want to see him for five minutes so we can know how he is doing. “He takes medicine for blood pressure, and if he needs it, I won’t even know,” the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “He’s not with any party. He’s not a political leader. He used to be leader of a human-rights organisation, but he’s not involved in anything now.” She said she takes clean clothes for her husband every week to the ministry of interior, “but I don’t know if he’s getting them or not”. Family members and lawyers have had no access to the prisoner since his arrest 25 days ago.Dozens of women participating in the protest and dressed in black chadors recounted stories of their relatives’ arrests during a series of early-morning raids last month. The government detained scores of men, and announced that 23 were facing charges related to membership of a terrorist network that was intent on overthrowing Bahrain’s Sunni royal family.The wife of Abdulhadi al Saffar, a detainee who chairs the committee against inflation and works with international human-rights organisations, said her husband has been held for 20 days and his lawyer met him only once – when he was transferred from the criminal investigation department to the public prosecution. “The lawyer told me he’d been tortured, but he didn’t know exactly what had happened,” the woman, who asked for her first name not to be used, said. Many of the relatives, politicians and human-rights activists at the vigil had similar concerns that the detainees were not being humanely treated.The banned Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said on its website that the recently detained men have been subjected to “severe torture that exceeded anything the BCHR had documented before”, including beatings, sleep deprivation and being hanged by the wrists from handcuffs.Mr al Saffar’s wife said her husband was a teacher at a public school, but he had been fired as punishment for alleged involvement in the terrorist group.Abdulwahab Hussein, a leader of the Al Wafa Movement who hosted the prisoners’ family members in his house, said the government is retracting public services such as health care, education, housing and access to loans from the accused men. He described the measure as “collective punishment”.“This network is not real. I know all of the 23; some of them don’t have any activities and they all have different ideologies,” Mr Hussein told the sympathisers, under a banner with photographs of the prominent detainees. “The only thing they have in common is that they are against the 2002 constitution and participation in parliament.”Al Wafa, a Shiite Islamist group, refuses to compete in the upcoming parliamentary election and two of its leaders, Sheikh Saeed al Nouri and Sheikh Abdulhadi al Mukhodur, were among the 23 named men. Mr Hussein said the vigil was being held to ask for the release of the detainees, bring attention to the torture they have experienced, request the authorities to allow visits by relatives and lawyers, and return the services that have been retracted.“This case is not related to the burnt tyres in the street; it’s related to freedom of speech,” Mr Hussein said, referring to the protests that have erupted across the country in the run-up to the election. “They arrested these people because they support democracy.”Shiite political groups are split on whether to fight this year’s election, which will be held on October 23. Despite similar doubts four years ago, Shiites won 17 of the elected chamber’s 40 seats. The 40 members to the parliament’s second house are appointed. The king appoints 40 members to the parliament’s second house.