10 April 2017 – A Bahraini court today imprisoned the performer Mahdi Sahwan to six months in prison and he is now being transferred to the notorious Jau Prison, his lawyer says. Mahdi is the brother of Mohammad Sahwan, a torture victim who last month died in Jau Prison.
Sahwan was convicted to six months in prison for protesting against the government’s decision to render stateless Sheikh Isa Qassim, the most senior Shia cleric in Bahrain. He was arrested on 20 June 2016, the same day that the Ministry of Interior deprived Sheikh Qassim of his citizenship.
Mahdi Sahwan’s brother, Mohammad, last month died of sudden cardiac arrest in Jau Prison, the same prison Mahdi is now being transferred to. Mohammad Sahwan was a victim of excessive force by police in 2012 and was a victim of torture. His funeral in Sanabis was attended by thousands and met by excessive force from the police.
Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “The criminal act here is by Bahrain’s police, prosecutors and judges who imprison Mahdi Sahwan for expressing his opinion. His brother Mohammad died without ever seeing justice done against his torturers. The international community must call on Bahrain to respect and protect the freedom of assembly and expression. The United Nations and Bahrain’s allies, particularly the US and UK, must condemn this authoritarianism and disregard for human rights.
The performer previously spent a year in prison between 2013-2014 on charges of insulting King Hamad of Bahrain, as well as calling for and participating in illegal protests. Since Sahwan’s first arrest, Bahraini law increased the penalty for insulting the king to be punishable by up to seven years in prison and a 10,000 Bahraini Dinar fine.
The deprivation of Sheikh Isa Qassim’s nationality has been seen as an assault on the religious freedoms of Bahrain’s Shia majority, who look to him for spiritual guidance.
As well as Mahdi Sahwan, nine Shia clerics have been imprisoned since the government deprived Sheikh Isa Qassim of his nationality.
In January, 18-year-old Mustafa Hamdan was protesting outside Sheikh Isa Qassim’s house when masked, plainclothes police shot him in the back of the head. He died last month. No government body has claimed responsibility for his death.
Since 20 June, police have subjected Sheikh Qassim’s hometown of Duraz to a physical blockade and nightly internet blackouts, collectively punishing the village’s 20,000 residents.
Five UN experts called on Bahrain to end its “persecution of Shias” in August.