Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Criticism of the Bahraini government in the torture and killings of Zakariya Al-Asheeri and Ali Saqer


A March 13, 2013 article from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expressed concern over  a Bahraini court's decision to acquit everyone involved in the torture and death of blogger Zakariya Rashid Hassan Al-Asheeri, who was detained by the police after a show trial that was over a year long.

On March 12, 2013, the first higher criminal court acquitted five policemen who were charged with beating 40 year old blogger Zakariya Al-Asheeri to death, who was detained by the police in April 2011. Two of the policemen were accused of torturing Al-Asheeri, causing fatal injuries; the other three policemen were charged with failing to report the crime. All five have been cleared of their charges relating to Al-Asheeri, although two of them have been convicted  for the fatal beating of another detainee, Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer.

Al-Asheeri, who was a moderator for an online forum, the now-defunct http://aldair.net, was arrested on April 2, 2011 for calling for the overthrow of the regime, promoting sectarianism, publishing false news, and inciting hatred. On April 9, 2011, he was found dead in custody. His body was given to his family, which showed extensive signs of torture. At the time, the Bahraini government denied all reports of torture, and claimed that Al-Asheeri had died of complications related to sickle cell anemia.

The same five policemen have also been accused of beating Ali Saqer to death. Two of them had been found guilty of his death by the court, and had been sentenced to jail for 10 years. They did not attend the hearing and have not been detained.

Saqer turned himself into the police on April 5, 2011, after numerous threats were made to his family. Four days later, he was pronounced dead by the Ministry of Interior. It released a statement claiming that Saqer caused trouble at the detention centre, forcing security to control the situation, and that Saqer resisted them, which led to him being injured in the process. He died later after he was taken to the hospital. The Minister of Human Rights had also claimed that detainees had died of natural causes at a press conference, and accused activists of doctoring photos to make it look like the victims had experienced torture. When Nabeel Rajab, president of the BCHR, published the photos of Saqer with evidence of torture on his body, he was accused of doctoring photos. Rajab was ordered to tried in a military court.

The trial began over a year ago on January 11, 2012. The accused policemen were not held in custody and had attended a few sessions in their uniforms, which indicated that they were still on duty at the time, and are not considered a threat to the victims remaining in custody. For more information on this story, please visit: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5673

The deaths of Zakariya Al-Asheeri and Ali Saqer prove once again that massive human rights violations are taking place in Bahrain, and that the people who tortured them should be imprisoned for life. With the cases of government-sponsored torture increasing in Bahrain, it is clear that the need for the international community to find a practical, non-military solution to Bahrain's growing political crisis is becoming more urgent. Any claims by the Bahraini government that its own citizens are not being tortured to death are obviously false, and can be easily refuted with the following photos:

Signs of torture were found on the body of blogger Zakariya Al-Asheeri. Photos reused with
permission from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

Signs of torture were found on the 
body of Ali Saqer. Photo reused with 
permission from the Bahrain Center 
for Human Rights (BCHR).

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