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Rights organisations demand Bahrain release opposition figure on hunger strike

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Activist groups Friday urged Bahrain to release a key opposition figure, saying he has been on hunger strike since July 8 over “ill-treatment”.

Sixteen organisations — including Amnesty International and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) — called on Bahraini authorities to release Abduljalil al-Singace, who is serving a life sentence for his involvement in a 2011 uprising.

Singace launched his hunger strike “in response to degrading treatment he was subjected to by a prison officer, to protest the restriction of being permitted to call only five numbers during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and to demand the return of his book, confiscated by prison guards on 9 April, 2021, and on which he worked for at least four years”, they said in a joint statement.

They said the book by Singace, an academic and blogger, was about linguistic diversity in Bahraini Arabic dialects and had no political content.

“We call for al-Singace’s immediate and unconditional release and for his work to be immediately given to his family,” they added.

The statement also said the 59-year-old suffered from chronic illnesses and had faced “sustained medical negligence”.

Bahrain denies accusations of ill-treatment

A Bahraini government spokesperson denied accusations of ill-treatment, saying Singace was receiving proper medical care.

“To date, he is fully conscious, and his internal organs are healthy and stable,” the spokesperson told AFP on Friday.

The spokesperson said Singace had been repeatedly advised by doctors to end his hunger strike, “until a legal decision is taken regarding his” work, which the government said was confiscated while being smuggled out in breach of prison rules.

Singace was among 13 activists who took part in anti-government protests a decade ago who were convicted on charges that included “setting up terror groups to topple the regime”.

He was a key member of the Shiite opposition Haq movement.

Since the Shiite-led uprising in the Sunni-ruled kingdom that was put down with Saudi military support, Bahrain has outlawed opposition parties and arrested dozens of activists, sparking international criticism.

Bahrain has claimed Iran trained and backed the demonstrators in order to topple the Manama government — an accusation Tehran denies.

The kingdom rejects allegations of human rights violations and denies discriminating against its Shiite citizens.

(AFP)

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