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    Huffington Post  |  By 

    Posted: 08/07/2013 4:08 pm EDT  |  Updated: 08/07/2013 4:42 pm EDT

    Bahrain human rights activist Maryam Al-Khawaja says the government there is escalating its crackdown on protests in advance of a major opposition rally, and says that the regime continues to torture detainees. Al-Khawaja, President of The Bahrain Center For Human Rights, appeared on HuffPost Live Wednesday to discuss the Bahraini government's ban on protests as well as the cases of a photojournalist and blogger who were arrested and abused by police with host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin.

     

    Continue reading or watch the video on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/07/bahrain-protest-law-amended-torture_n_3720618.html?utm_hp_ref=tw#

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    Confirmed information on the torture of social media activists in detention

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern in regards to the recent news of the reported torture of a blogger who was held incommunicado as well as the escalation in arrests and prosecution of people for their tweets in Bahrain, the latest case being the lawyer who tweeted about torture.

    Blogger Mohamed Hassan (known on twitter as @Safybh) has reportedly been subjected to torture in detention. His lawyer, AbdulAziz Mosa informed BCHR that he was able to see marks of beatings on Hassan’s arm, and that Mohamed stated that he was beaten at the Criminal Investigation Department on his back and lower abdomen.  Hassan made this statement during the interrogation session at the public prosecution that started at approximately 2:30 am on the 7th of August and lasted for more than 3 hours. Hassan said that he was forced to confess under mental and physical coercing. Hassan was interrogated about his online activities, participation in seminars and forums outside Bahrain, and his contacts with media reporters who visit Bahrain.

    Blogger Mohamed Hassan was arrested from his home at around 3am on 31 July 2013. He was held incommunicado for over three days with no access to family or lawyer. On 3 Aug he was transferred to the Dry Dock Prison.

    14 hours after lawyer AbdulAziz Mosa (@AbdulAzizMoosa) tweeted about seeing the marks of beating on Mohamed Hassan, Mosa’s home was raided in the village of Muqshaa, he was arrested and his personal computer was also confiscated. The public prosecution stated that Abdulaziz will be detained for one week pending further investigation, and is charged with “the publication of defendant’s names without permission and the disclosing of investigation secrets”. It should be noted that the publishing of names and photos of defendants has been the norm for the Government of Bahrain, and no one has been held accountable for publishing or broadcasting names and photos of political prisoners before conviction on state media outlets. The government even went to the extent of broadcasting a confession taken under duress of a political prisoner on Bahrain state television after he was tortured to death. (More details: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/3976 )

    The arrest of Mohammed Hassan was soon followed by the arrest of award winning photojournalist Hussain Hubail who was also taken to public prosecution for interrogation along with blogger Mohamed Hasan on the 7th of August. Hubail was arrested on the night of 31 July 2013 from the airport and he was held incommunicado for over four days until he was moved to the Dry Docks prison on 5 August where he called his family from.

    Hussain Hubail’s lawyer, Ali AlAsfoor, said that Hubail was interrogated about his work as a photojournalist and his connection to some twitter accounts that are linked to the Bahrain “Tamarrod” [Rebellion] protests planned on Aug 14. During the time of the interrogation at the public prosecution, security forces raided the home of Hubail and confiscated his camera and laptop.

    According to confirmed information received by BCHR, Hussain Hubail was reportedly subjected to torture at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), office number 99. He was reportedly beaten and kicked in the abdomen and face, placed in an extremely cold room, forced to stand for long periods and deprived of sleep during the entire period he spent at the CID (approximately four days).  He reported this to the public prosecutor during his interrogation.

    In addition to Mohamed Hassan and Hussain Hubail, other people are accused in the same case and they have been charged with: “participating in the administration of accounts that call for regime overthrow, promoting and inciting hatred against the regime, inciting to not amenable to the laws and calling for illegal rallies and gatherings”. Mohamed Hassan was accused with contributing to the twitter account of the Feb 14 media network (@Feb14Media).

    One of the defendants in the case is Jassim Mohamed AlNoaimi (@Jsnoaimi) who was arrested on 31 July 2013 during a house raid, and had his mobile and computers confiscated. He is currently being held at the Dry Docks prison after he was given 45 days detention pending investigation.

    Both Mohamed Hassan and Hussain Hubail received detention orders of 45 days under investigation following the interrogation session.

    n 7 August 2013, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement related to the same case in which it stated that it had arrested a group of people on charges of “creating and operating websites that calls for the overthrow of the government using illegal means such as rallies that end in violence and vandalism. This disrupts the security and safety of the citizens and residents of Bahrain and disturbs the peace.” The statement included that the arrest of others is still ongoing. The BCHR believes that other social media activists will be arrested as part of this campaign.

    This escalating crackdown on freedom of the internet comes days after the National Assembly recommended harsher penalties for those who use social networks to express opposition views or what the government deems “illegal activities”. (More information: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6263 )

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes this crackdown is intended by the authorities in the lead up to 14 August when protests are planned, to control information and news. This is a direct violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

    In the past months, more than 106 months of imprisonment were collectively delivered against 12 online users since June 2012. Photographer Ahmed Humaidan remains in detention pending trial since 29 Dec 2012, while photographer Hasan Matooq is serving a three years prison sentence since 24 March 2011 for taking photos of injuries during the events of 2011 protests.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN, and all other close allies and relevant international institutions to apply real pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:

    1. Immediately and unconditionally release blogger Mohammed Hassan, photojournalist Hussain Hubail and lawyer AbdulAziz Mosa, as well as all those detained for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression.
    2. End the systematic targeting of online users and news providers who are exercising their right to freedom of expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    3. Immediately end the practice of systematic torture as a tool to extract confessions.
    4. Hold all those who have been involved in, overseeing and/or ordering violations like torture accountable, especially those in high positions.
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    This morning the Acting President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) Maryam Al-Khawaja, was informed by a British Airways flight staff member that the Bahrain Government had issued a ban on her name which effectively prevents her from boarding her flight to Bahrain. Ms. Al-Khawaja had decided to visit Bahrain to monitor the situation ahead of planned protests set to take place on 14 August 2013. The Bahraini government has escalated its crackdown on human rights defenders and activists arresting a blogger, a photographer as well as a the blogger's lawyer, in the past week alone. It also continues to deny entry to journalists, most recently an Aljazeera reporter. Ms. Al-Khawaja thought it pertinent to have monitors on the ground given that the most prominent human right defenders are currently behind bars and the crackdown is intensifying.

    Ms. Al-Khawaja was also hoping to visit her detained father, human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in jail next week where he is due a visit and currently serving a life sentence for his peaceful human rights activism. She was also to visit her sister, human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja also serving multiple sentences in the Isa Town Female Detention Centre.

    The BCHR and the GCHR find  this most recent act by the Bahraini Government very worrying as it is clear that it wants no witnesses to its current and anticipated future violations. Banning journalists as well as human rights defenders entry into the country signals a possible escalation in the coming days. Ms. Al-Khawajaha decided to pursue this case to find the reasons why British Airways agreed to ban her from boarding their flight.

    We respectfully reminds the government of Bahrain about the General Comment No. 27: Freedom of movement (Art.12) on the The International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights which Bahrain has signed on and committed to respect:

    "21. In no case may a person be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his or her own country. The reference to the concept of arbitrariness in this context is intended to emphasize that it applies to all State action, legislative, administrative and judicial; it guarantees that even interference provided for by law should be in accordance with the provisions, aims and objectives of the Covenant and should be, in any event, reasonable in the particular circumstances. The Committee considers that there are few, if any, circumstances in which deprivation of the right to enter one's own country could be reasonable. A State party must not, by stripping a person of nationality or by expelling an individual to a third country, arbitrarily prevent this person from returning to his or her own country."

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    Also Read this coverage and interview on www.ibtimes.co.uk
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    UA: 204/13 Index: MDE 11/027/2013 Bahrain Date: 02 August 2013

    A 15-year-old boy, Hussain al-Hawaj, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by a Bahraini court on 9 June for participation in a protest, arson and rioting . He is held in Jaw prison for adults.

    Hussain al-Hawaj, aged 15, was arrested by plainclothes security officers at about 4pm on 7 December 2012 in the capital, Manama, following clashes between protesters and police. Hussain al-Hawaj had been visiting his grandfather and was going to the restaurant across the street to buy some food. He was taken to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) at 3am without a lawyer or an adult representative, charged with setting fire to communal dustbins and rioting, then led away to be held in Dry Dock prison. His family were able to visit him after 10 days and he told them that while he was detained at a police station he had been beaten, threatened and made to sign documents he was not allowed to read, before being taken to the PPO. His lawyer said the boy had been coerced into “confessing”. He appeared in court several times and was charged with illegal gathering, arson and rioting.

    The High Criminal Court (Branch 1) sentenced him on 9 June to five years’ imprisonment. He was transferred to Jaw Prison for adults (around 30km south of Manama). According to his family all the prosecution witnesses were policemen who gave conflicting testimonies in court. His appeal has been set for 9 September.

    Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:

    • Expressing concern that Hussain al-Hawaj is being held in a prison for adult despite being 15 years old, and urging the Bahraini authorities to ensure that he is treated in accordance with the rules of juvenile justice;
    • Urging the authorities to protect him from torture and other ill-treatment, to ensure that his allegations of ill-treatment are independently investigated and that statements obtained through the use of torture or other ill-treatment are not accepted in any proceedings.

     

    PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 12 SEPTEMBER 2013 TO:

    King

    Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa

    Office of His Majesty the King

    P.O. Box 555

    Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1766 4587 (keep trying)

    Salutation: Your Majesty

     

    Minister of Interior

    Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa

    Ministry of Interior

    P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1723 2661

    Twitter: @moi_Bahrain

    Salutation: Your Excellency

     

    And copies to:

    Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs

    Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa

    Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs

    P. O. Box 450, al-Manama, Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1753 1284

    Email: minister@justice.gov.bh

    Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali

    Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:

    Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

     

     

    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

    The Bahraini authorities have publicly stated their intention to introduce reforms and learn lessons from events in February and March 2011, when they cracked down on anti-government protesters. In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) submitted a report, which concluded that the authorities had committed gross human rights violations with impunity. Despite the authorities’ claims to the contrary, abuses are still being committed against those who oppose the Al Khalifa family’s rule.

    According to Article 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Bahrain is a state party, “1. States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly. 2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these rights other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

    Article 37 of CRC requires that "States Parties shall ensure that: (b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; (d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

    Article 40 also states: “2(a) No child shall be alleged as, be accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law by reason of acts or omissions that were not prohibited by national or international law at the time they were committed; 2(b)(ii) To be informed promptly and directly of the charges against him or her, and, if appropriate, through his or her parents or legal guardians, and to have legal or other appropriate assistance in the preparation and presentation of his or her defence and 2 (b)(iv) Not to be compelled to give testimony or to confess guilt; to examine or have examined adverse witnesses and to obtain the participation and examination of witnesses on his or her behalf under conditions of equality”.

     

    Name: Hussain al-Hawaj

    Gender m/f: m

    UA: 204/13 Index: MDE 11/027/2013 Issue Date: 02 August 2013

    http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/027/2013/en

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    Mahmood has not slept at home in eight months. His younger brother has not slept there in a year. But armed riot police continue to raid their family home monthly, breaking down bedroom doors searching for them.

    Mahmood and his brother are wanted by the government of Bahrain. They have been charged with various forms of involvement in  anti-government protests, which for the past two and a half years have pinned the kingdom’s Shia majority against the ruling Sunni minority. The Ministry of Interior’s police forces are currently searching Bahrain’s Shia villages for over five hundred wanted young men, according to reports gathered by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). Arrests and raids have intensified in the weeks leading up to Bahrain’s Egypt-inspired Tamarod (rebellion) protests, set for August 14.

    “Yesterday, they raided Sitra village for four hours,” says Said Yousif al-Muhaftha, head of documentation and monitoring at the BCHR, referring to a recent police operation. “Do you know how many they arrested? None. Not one. None of the boys are home.”

    Wanted boys put a high stake on invisibility. The government tracks the young men using informants and nightly house raids; anywhere Mahmood stands, he risks being seen by government informants and arrested almost instantaneously. He cannot work because going to the Ministry of Labor effectively guarantees arrest. He says he cannot return to school because walking onto campus would make him highly visible. Getting married requires a blood test, and hospitals are off-limits for the wanted. Should he need any kind of medical care at all, seeking hospital treatment could mean years in prison.


    Continue reading on Middle East Voices: http://middleeastvoices.voanews.com/2013/08/voices-bahrains-lost-boys-86865/#ixzz2bTaYVHeK

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is gravely concerned in regards to the death of two civilians who were killed after reportedly being chased by police and civilian cars which led to their car crashing. On 31st of July 2013, Ali Issa Abdulridha AlBasry (25 years old) and Mahmood Abbas Salman AlAradi (19 years old) died in a horrific car crash near Sitra area.

    According to the family of Mahmood AlAradi, their son has been wanted by the state security since the year 2010 in a case known as "AlHujairah" and was monitored throughout this period but was not been arrested. His home was raided on the morning of the 31st of July, but AlAradi was not there.

    When the news arrived, the brother of Ali AlBasry's wife headed to the Salmaniya hospital and asked the police stationed outside about the two persons who were brought because of a car accident, they replied "yes, Mahmood AlAradi had died, and the other person died as well. Who are you?" He replied that he is a relative, after which they took him to the morgue to identify the body. He told the BCHR that when he asked the police about how they knew the name of the deceased Mahmood AlAradi as he was not carrying any Identification card, they did not answer and forced him to leave.

    On the following day, the two families headed to the General Directorate of Traffic to ask about the video recording of the car crash, and they were promised that the recording would be handed over after two weeks. Then they went to a car agency located near the place of the car crash and asked if their cameras had filmed the incident. They confirmed that their cameras had filmed the accident, and that if the families had come earlier they could have received the recording, but the Ministry of Interior (MoI) had come that morning and confiscated the recording from the agency.

    The relative of Ali AlBasry added that there is an eyewitness who reported that he witnessed the incident and that within minutes the area was surrounded by police and intelligence cars. He also questioned the identity of the person who spread the picture of Mahmood AlAradi after the car crash although the area was surrounded by intelligence personnel and no one was able access the scene.

    Eye-witnesses told the relatives of the deceased that on the day of the incident there were four cars that were monitoring and following AlAradi and AlBasry attempting to force them to stop, but they did not. The families believe that the deceased refused to pull over because Mahmood AlAradi was wanted.

    The families informed the BCHR that they believe the car crash was the result of the two young men being shot at, showing the picture of the car with an evident hole in the front glass.  They also stated that they will continue to pursue the case until they acquire the entire video recording of the incident According to the families they attempted to retrieve the car, but until the date of writing this report, the Ministry of Interior is refusing to hand it over.

    On the 8th of Aug 2013, Mahmood AlAradi’s mother was stopped at the Saudi bridge on her way to Mecca, and taken to the public prosecution. Harassment of families of victims of extrajudicial killings in Bahrain is not new, especially those who choose to speak out about the killings like AlAradi’s mother.

     Testimonies of the Eyewitnesses

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) was able to contact two eyewitnesses, below are their testimonies.

    The first witness stated:

    "At 5:30 pm on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 a white Corolla car was heading from AlBandar traffic signal to Nuwaidrat area. The car was standing alone at the traffic signal, and when the traffic light changed to green, the car passed normally and there wasn’t a sign of any car coming from the same road. I was standing at that time at Sitra traffic signal as I was coming from Sitra area, when the traffic light opened, I drove for a couple of meters when I was surprised by four cars (two police cars and two black civilian cars) crossing the red traffic light, so I stopped to avoid them crashing into me.

    They were driving with crazy speed trying to follow the white Corolla car, and what happened is that the two police cars went ahead of the mentioned car, and someone went out from one of the black civilian cars’ windows and fired something which broke through the front glass of the car. Another person from the other black car, which was very close to the Corolla car, fired something at the front tire which exploded and the car swerved and collided into one of the big cars parked near the road, a six-wheel refrigerator truck. The four cars continued their way without stopping and went to Alba roundabout and returned again to the accident site which was surrounded in less than a minute by security and intelligence with the presence of the two civilian cars who caused the accident."

    Another witness stated:

    "On Wednesday 31st of July 2013 at around 5:30 pm, I was standing on the road when I noticed two black cars following a white car, which I couldn’t identify its type, and suddenly I saw the accident, but I don't know how it happened and other cars continued driving without stopping. In less than a minute while I was still standing, police and Intelligence cars surrounded the accident area and the two cars came back as well, and the car was removed as quickly as possible while preventing others from coming near the area."

    A video went viral online reportedly showing the car crash. It is clear that there are two police vehicles and two civilian black as per the eyewitness. Link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG1DUYrUPeg

    Based on the information presented above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls for an impartial, independent and transparent investigation into the incident, and to hold all perpetrators accountable.

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    Impunity for Pro-Regime Figures Calling for Violence

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concern in regards to the ongoing campaign of distortion and sectarian incitement through official media, as the Bahraini government embarks on harsher sanctions against the right to free expression, while allowing sectarian and seditious journalists and others to continue their attacks in the media without accountability or questioning.

    AlWatan Daily Newspaper - one of the local newspapers which was part of the Bandargate scandal - published an article on the morning of Saturday August 11, 2013 by one of the writers entitled "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, announce it so the glory of the nation return" referring to King Abdullah bin AbdulAziz, King of Saudi Arabia. In the details of the Article is an invitation by the writer "Najat AlMadhhaki" for a fast Saudi decision to the annexation of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia under the name of Gulf Union using the pretext of Iran’s targeting of Bahrain. The writer also spoke about the complicity of the United States of America and the Republic of Iran to divide and fragment Bahrain. This writer described the Shiite community as the descendants of Zoroastrians (people who pray to more than one God, in Arabic “Majoos” a derogatory and sectarian term used against Shiaa in Bahrain systematically especially by security forces) and considered them inferior of the masters of the nation: Al-Khalifa and Al-Saud. Link to the full article: http://www.alwatannews.net/ArticleViewer.aspx?ID=f1adsemBpAknhDsgaHXt4A933339933339

    It is important to note that Saudi Arabia stood against Bahrain's peaceful pro-democracy mass protests since they began on February 14, 2011 under the fear of the transmission of the impact of the revolution to Saudi Arabia and the threat to the rule of AlSaud. The mainly Saudi intervention in Bahrain came in the form of heavy military support in the guise of the Gulf Cooperation Councils “Peninsula Shield”, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) documented at that time testimonies of victims who confirmed the participation of Saudi forces in the attack on Sitra and in suppressing the peaceful sit-in at Pearl Roundabout. While the Bahraini regime stressed that the GCC troops were present in Bahrain to protect vital areas, a German newspaper, Der Spiegel, published on Monday, February 13th, 2012 an interview conducted with the ruler of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, in which he stated that "we invited the GCC troops to come in to protect our strategic installations in case Iran became more aggressive." Link to the whole interview: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-interview-with-the-king-of-bahrain-arab-spring-that-s-the-business-of-other-countries-a-814915.html

    The Minister of Information, Sameera Rajab, also confirmed in June 2013 that the Gulf Union is imperative to strengthen the capacity of the countries of the Cooperation Council for Arab States of the Gulf to protect its security and stability, and to enhance the gains and achievements in the areas of economic and social development. Source: http://www.alwasatnews.com/3940/news/read/786812/1.html

    The sectarian incitements against the Shia majority in Bahrain have continued since the pro-democracy mass protests started on February 14, 2011 through social networking sites and state media. It has been the case that if the person inciting violence is pro-ruling family or of their security forces, they are not held accountable. One notable example was at Arad during which former MP Mohammed Khaled emphasized that the Bahrain state is "Arab" and will never be an easy prey to for the Safavid (another derogatory term meant to align all Shia’s in Bahrain with Iran) followers, and threatened an escalation against what he called the Iranian American danger to Bahrain. (Link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5eoCxlYyuE). Khaled also tweeted on his official Twitter account "it is allowed to tie up any road blocker with chains and to pour oil on his hair, and every honest citizen who passes by him, should either run him over or throw garbage at him. I’m serious, and I will be the first (to do it)". Mohammed Khalid then deleted the tweet after criticism by activists about him inciting violence.

     


     

    Another tweet recently said: "Teargas will not help with the terrorist Iran slaves who want to kill security men  ... Shotgun, live bullets and deportation is the medicine they deserve" which is a clear and explicit incitement against the opponents of the Bahraini regime policy. Link to the Tweet: https://twitter.com/boammar/status/366258084550688772

     

    In a move which was supported by the government and particularly from Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa for toughening sanctions against peaceful demonstrators, the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) has issued a report in which it confirmed the words of the minister, "The current phase experienced by Bahrain is the stage of the rule of law and the seek to its entrenchment, in order to save the nation and the interests of the citizen". He added: This island will burn to a cinder all those who seek to tamper with its security and stability,” The Prime Minister has emphasized that his government will confront in order to impose security and civil peace – as he alleges - any lawlessness or compromising the security of the citizens or any damage to public and private interests, and will work to bridge any gaps that incite terrorism and supports and funds it. Link to the full statement: http://www.shorouknews.com/news/view.aspx?cdate=04082013&id=a369c65f-1fb1-4f1b-aa0d-e6638df46233

    In a violation of the freedom of opinion and expression, the security forces arrested a group of citizens in a case known as "Rebellion" and accused them of calling for marches with the purpose of terrorism and the spread of violence despite the fact that the statement issued by the Rebel Movement was calling explicitly for a peaceful protest and the non-confrontation with the security services in any form.

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls for:

    • Holding all those responsible for sectarian discrimination and targeting accountable
    • Immediate measures against those who promote violence and incite sectarian hatred
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    by: Marc Owen Jones

    Published on http://www.yourmiddleeast.com

    Although Bahrain has largely fallen out of the global media spotlight, a renewed government crackdown ahead of the ‘Tamorrod’ protests on August 14th is threatening to push the country towards a deeper crisis. In order to deal with this ‘terrorist’ threat, King Hamad called for an extraordinary session of parliament, and despite the questionable constitutionality of the meeting, the virtually oppositionless elected assembly agreed to 22 pieces of draconian anti-terror legislation. In testament to the dire conditions of Bahrain’s government controlled civil society, the Minister of Human Rights lauded these repressive recommendations, which included the revocation of citizenship for convicted of terrorism, and the banning of protests in Manama.  

    Yet despite this renewed crackdown, many of the measures proposed in the extraordinary meeting have already been in place. Thirty-one Bahrainis were stripped of their citizenship back in November 2012, and there has been a de facto ban on protests in Manama since last year. Other recent examples of reactionary laws include the approval by the upper chamber of legislation making it illegal to ‘incite hatred’ against the security forces (whatever that means). Activists are also languishing in detention, months beforegoing on trial, and evidence points to the use of forced confessions.  On top of this, the government has expanded its surveillance apparatus to further limit freedom of expression. Even calling the King a ‘dictator’ on Twitter will land you in jail, as has been the case with at least eleven people.

    Continue reading on http://www.yourmiddleeast.com/opinion/marc-owen-jones-little-hope-for-bahrain-as-world-turns-away_16948

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is gravely concerned in regards to the ongoing and escalating government crackdown following the announcement of Bahrain Rebellion "Tamarrod" Movement to take place in Bahrain tomorrow, 14th of August 2013, to demand the right of self-determination and human rights through peaceful protests. Ever since the call for the protests, approximately a month and a half ago, the BCHR has documented rapidly increasing violations committed by the Bahraini authorities; from passing new repressive laws, increase of violent, arbitrary arrests and house raids, and to the most recent case of surrounding some villages with barbed wire and cement blocks.

    On Monday, 13th of August 2013, security forces started surrounding some villages with barbed wire and placed cement blocks to control the movement and prevent protestors from reaching the main roads. Residents of those areas will be forced to cross police checkpoints whenever they need to leave or enter residential areas, which imposes the threat of getting arrested if they were suspected of participating in the protests.

    Photo: Cement blocks and barbed wires in Bilad AlQadeem

    Photo: Villages surrounded by barbed wire

    Besides besieging several areas, the BCHR has also documented an increase of police and security presence at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, which is the only full-service public hospital in Bahrain, and a camera at the gate which records number plates of all cars entering. This poses a threat to all those who may seek medical treatment after getting injured while participating in peaceful protests, and those who take them to the hospital.

    It is important to note that the unelected Prime Minister, Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, threatened during a high level meeting on Monday August, 12th 2013 that the government will forcefully confront any calls to violate law and order and those who stand behind them through decisive measures. Link to the full article: http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/574795.

    The BCHR is very concerned about the impending crackdown tomorrow, and calls for international pressure on the Government in Bahrain to allow people their basic right to peaceful protest and freedom of assembly. Repression of peaceful calls for protest will only further deteriorate the human rights situation in Bahrain.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) believes that placing barbed wires and cement blocks around entire villages is in direct violation of the right to freedom of movement, and that all other suppressive acts of the Bahraini authorities are flagrant violations of all international conventions it has signed and ratified, and thus, the BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN and all other allies and relevant institutions to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to immediately put an end to the human rights violations.

     

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    Tell them about how you're never really a whole person if you remain silent.” - Audre Lorde

     

    On the 31st of July, our friend Mohammed Hassan (also known as Safy in the blogging sphere and social media) was arrested from his parents' house in the Bahraini town of Sitra without an arrest warrant. According to Amnesty International, the 26-year-old blogger is still at the Criminal Investigation Directorate in al-'Adliya located in the capital city of Manama.

     

    Friends of Hassan and his lawyer stated that the blogger has been tortured by security officers. Hassan's lawyer Abdulaziz Mousa was also arrested on the 7th of August for disclosing names of detainees and details of the investigation without permission. Hassan is accused of “promoting a forced change of the regime.” It is believed that the arrest of Hassan (and others) in the past few weeks is part of the regime's crackdown against the upcoming protests that are planned on the 14th of August to call for freedom, justice, and change.

     

    We are bloggers from all around the world issuing this statement in solidarity with our friend Mohammed Hassan. Bahrain continues to expand its record of crimes against bloggers, journalists, and social media users among many others. As the country's press fails to escape state-censorship, the internet has become a powerful tool for oppressed Bahrainis to expose the crimes practiced against them on a daily basis. Such collective efforts caused severe embarrassment for the Bahraini regime which decided to hire PR companies to troll activists and spread propaganda. The regime does not shy away from spying on internet users and hacking their accounts in order to arrest them. This electronic war on Bahrainis by their regime is only a fraction of the widespread persecution they face.

     

    We call on the international community and all organizations and bodies dedicated to defending freedoms to pressure the Bahraini regime and demand the release of Mohammed Hassan. We ask all journalists, bloggers, and activists to offer their solidarity for Mohammed Hassan and to highlight his case. Without our fellow blogger Mohammed Hassan and those arbitrarily jailed, our blogging community cannot rest until he is back to his family and friends.

     

     

    Signatories:

    1- Mona Kareem – Kuwait

    2- Mahmoud Omar - Palestine

    3- Joey Ayoub - Lebanon

    4- Leila Nachawati - Spain

    5- Mosa’ab Elshamy - Egypt

    6- Imad Stitou- Morocco

    7- Hayder Hamzoz - Iraq

    8- Ali Abdulemam - Bahrain

    9- Ali Alsaffar - Saudi Arabia

    10- Ebaa Rezeq - Palestine

    11- Youssef Cherif - Tunisia

    12- Lilian Wagdy- Egypt

    13- Sarah Naguib - Egypt

    14- Mohammad Almutawa - Kuwait

    15- Wael Abbas - Egypt

    16- Mohamed ElGohary - Egypt

    17- David Ferreira - United States

    18- Ziad Dallal - Lebanon

    19- Yusur Al Bahrani- Canada

    20- Sara Salem - Egypt

    21- Mehreen Kasana - Pakistan

    22- Nasser Weddady - Mauritania

    23- Tarek Amr - Egypt

    24- Mohamed Ali Chebaane - Tunisia

    25- Zeinab Mohamed -Egypt

    26- Ellery Roberts Biddle - United States

    27- Nada Akl - Lebanon

    28- Sarah Carr - Egypt

    29- Solana Larsen - United States

    30- Elizabeth Rivera - Chile

    31- Marc Owen Jones - United Kingdom

    32- Dima Khatib - Palestine

    33- Fazel Hawramy - Kurdistan

    34- Samia Errazzouki - Morocco/D.C

    35- Raafat Rahim - Egypt

    36- Ahmed Mansoor - UAE

    37- Anas Qtiesh - Syria

    38- Ruslan Trad - Bulgaria/Syria

    39- Nora Abdulkarim - Saudi Arabia

    40- Afrah Nasser - Yemen

    41- Salam (Pax) Abdulmunem - Iraq

    42- Ahmed Awadalla - Egypt

    43- Budour Hassan - Palestine

    44- Yasser Al-Zaiat - Syria

    45- Mohamed Mesrati - Libya

    46- Hasna Ankal - Belgium/Morocco

    47- Ghazi Gheblawi - Libya

    48- Rebecca MacKinnon - United States

    49 - Marcia Lynx Qualey - United States/Egypt

    50 - Jillian C. York - United States

    51 - Maryam Al-Khawaja

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned about the government’s strong reaction to the planned, peaceful, demonstrations ongoing through Bahrain today for the Tamarrod, or Rebellion, movement. Much of the country’s economic centers have been voluntarily closed by shop owners, and many of the streets have been blocked by the police forces using razor wire and police vehicles. A large police force has camped around several of the embassies where protests were expected, and large amounts of teargas have been used to disperse anyone gathering on the streets.

     

     

     

     

     

    At the time of this writing, the BCHR estimates that thirteen people have been arrested so far today. This comes on top of the dozens of arrests that the security forces have conducted, without warrants, in the past days during home raids. Many report being severely beaten and tortured during their arrest. For a summary of the events over the last several days, see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6305

     

    Reportedly a large number of Jordanian mercenaries, and others originating from Pakistan, arrived in Bahrain to assist the government forces in quelling the protests. The BCHR is receiving reports that the police are pepper spraying citizens as they walk down the street – not involved in any protest – and shooting teargas indiscriminately.

     

     

     

    The people of Bahrain are continuing to exercise their right to peacefully protest despite the government’s crackdown. Families are sitting peacefully outside their homes in support of the protests, and hundreds of others are marching across the country. Police officers have attempted to provoke severl

     

     

    For updates throughout the day, follow @maryamalkhawaja and @saidyousif on twitter.

     

    A live blog is also documenting events throughout the day:

    https://www.bahrainaugust14.com/p/live-blog.html

     

     

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its grave concern in regards to the authorities in Bahrain’s harassment of imprisoned activists. Activist Zainab Al Khawaja is incarcerated with prisoners who have hepatitis A and B, highly contagious infections, without vaccination and the prison administration is ignoring her complaint. During the weekly visit this week, Al-Khawaja's family voiced concern as they noted that she looked pale and had lost a noticeable amount of weight. Also Bahrain13 activists were moved to a smaller area with every four activists in one small cell.

    The authorities in Bahrain continue to further escalate harassment of detained activists. ZainabAlKhawaja, a prominent human rights activist, who is serving multiple sentences in Isa Town woman prison, has been a continuous target of harassment by the prison administration. She is currently incarcerated with prisoners who have Hepatitis A and B and has informed the prison administration that she has not been vaccinated. The prison administration is ignoring her complaints which puts her at great risk of infection.

    A medical doctor (name with-held for safety reasons) told the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, explaining the nature of the diseases and its risks:

    Hepatitis A virus is transmitted through fecal-oral contamination, and there are occasional outbreaks through food sources. Most patients recover within two months of infection, although 10 to 15 percent of patients will experience a relapse in the first six months. Hepatitis A virus does not usually result in chronic infection or chronic liver disease. Hepatitis B virusis transmitted in blood and secretions (e.g., semen, saliva) and is infectious outside the body for seven or more days. Fewer than 5 % of adults acutely infected with HBV progress to chronic infection. A small number (1 %) develop acute hepatic failure and may die or require emergent liver transplantation.

    Adding: “The precarious structural and logistical conditions of prisons, which are associated with overpopulation, overcrowding, poor ventilation of cells, poor sanitation and hygiene, poor food quality and so on, are additional risk factors that should be considered per se as additional risk factors for the transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases.

    According to medical doctor, both infections are preventable by vaccination and “vaccination programs improve disease prevention … therefore essential to achieve population-based health objectives.”

    It is important to note that all prisoners eat together from the same food, which puts them at higher risk of contagion. To add to that, AlKhawaja has been prevented from going outdoors since March 2012, which increases risks of infection and puts her health at risk.

    Zainab AlKhawaja was arrested on 27th of February 2013 to serve a one-month sentence for protesting in the Pearl roundabout. While in prison, she received additional imprisonment sentences in three cases. On 22nd of May 2013, the court ruled in the case known as “Abu Saiba” where she was violently arrested while staging a sit-in in Abu Saiba roundabout on the 16th of December 2011. She was handcuffed and dragged on the ground to the police vehicle and detained for a week before she was released pending trial to be sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for charges of “illegal gathering”, “assaulting a female officer” and “inciting hatred against the regime”. She also received imprisonment sentences of 5 months in two other cases for “insulting a public official”, “illegal gathering” and “rioting”. AlKhawaja was subjected to ill-treatment and harassment since her detention in Isa Town women prison where she was denied visitation for months (Read more: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6183). Zainab AlKhawaja has had more than 13 cases against her, a number of which are active (Cases against Zainab AlKhawaja:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JkGo_Uhldvfs3SQbb0TTilzGSxtemKvTmqtwBRB0o_c/edit?usp=drive_web)

    Imprisoned political and human rights leaders known as the Bahrain13 are also being subjected to harassment. They have been subjected to severe torture, ill-treatment, denial of visits and medical care since their arrest in 2011. Today, they were moved to another area in Jaw prison that is smaller and in a different building. Every four people are being kept in one small cell (Read more: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/5740).   It should be noted that the Bahrain13 group were placed in a new prison building since their move to Jaw prison in Nov 2011, they were in isolation from the rest of the prisoners. With the growing number of political detainees, the BCHR believes the move came in order to utilize the new building for the additional prisoners. The BCHR continues to receive reports of crowded prison cells while the authorities continue the daily arrests and the delivery of prison sentences.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is extremely concerned in regards to the wellbeing of the detained activists and the continued escalation of harassment and denial of rights prisoners of conscience are being subjected to at the hands of the authorities in Bahrain.

    The BCHR urges the international community and in particular the States that are close allies to the Government of Bahrain, to call upon the Bahraini authorities to: 

    • Immediately and unconditionally release Zainab Al-Khawaja and Bahrain13 activists as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;
    • Immediately remove Zainab AlKhawaja from her cell and provide her with vaccination
    • Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Zainab Al-Khawaja and the Bahrain13 as well as all political prisoners in Bahrain
    • Put an end to acts of harassment against all human rights defenders in Bahrain
    • Ensure that international health standards are upheld for all prisoners in Bahrain to prevent the spreading of illnesses and diseases
    • Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
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    By Yara Bayoumy

    DUBAI | Mon Aug 12, 2013 10:03am EDT

    (Reuters) - Amina al-Maidan was asleep in her family's apartment in the Gulf state of Bahrain last October when masked policemen arrived at about 2am searching for her son, Tagi.

    "They didn't show me any papers or arrest warrants," said Maidan, a Shi'ite Muslim who lives in the village of Sanabis. "They didn't know what he was wanted for. It all happened so fast. I was thinking is this real or not. Am I dreaming?"

    The police woke Tagi al-Maidan with a kick. "Get up! Come with us!" one officer shouted.

    The young man was blindfolded, cuffed and driven to an undisclosed location where, he says, he was ordered to stand on one leg for four hours. He says he was beaten repeatedly as threats were made to rape his mother and sisters until he confessed, falsely he says, to attending a memorial for a dead protester and throwing a stone at a burning police vehicle.

    His alleged crimes, according to the government, include damaging a police car and attempted murder during a disturbance related to Shi'ite demands for change in Bahrain, a country long ruled by its Sunni Muslim minority. If convicted, he could face 15 years in jail.

    Bahrain denies allegations of torture in the incident. Still, Maidan's case is similar to those of some other Shi'ite Bahraini youths whom local and international rights groups say have been arbitrarily arrested and jailed since 2011 for alleged offences against Bahrain's security forces. But it differs in one crucial respect: Maidan is an American national.

    His predicament throws a spotlight on the complex relationship between the United States and the small Gulf nation of 1.25 million citizens, around half of whom are expatriates. Bahrain is a U.S. ally in a volatile region and has long provided a base for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet; but at the same it faces criticism over its record on human rights which the United States champions.

    Referring to human rights and security in the Gulf, a U.S. Congressional report last year said: "Bahrain in particular presents Washington with a difficult policy challenge."

    Bahrain has been ruled since 1783 by the Al-Khalifa family, which follows the Sunni strand of Islam. About 60 percent of the population - Bahrainis disagree on the exact figure - are Shi'ites. They want constitutional reform and more power and, inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions, began protesting in the capital, Manama, in February 2011.

    The government cracked down forcefully on the unrest then. But more than two years on, and with "national dialogue" talks taking place, lower-level unrest persists, with further anti-government protests expected in the next few days.

    A cat-and-mouse game takes place across the patchwork of Shi'ite villages every night. Youths block roads, security forces move in, and the two trade volleys of Molotov cocktails, tear gas and birdshot. Arrests, arbitrary or otherwise, fuel more anger among the disenfranchised youth.

    Hundreds of people have been seized this year during night-time raids, according to Human Rights Watch; they include activists "who have made credible allegations of torture that are consistent with previous instances of documented torture," said Nicholas McGeehan, a Gulf researcher at Human Rights Watch.

    Bahrain rejects such allegations. When asked to comment about Maidan's account of his treatment, the office of the Bahraini government's spokeswoman told Reuters in a statement that it has a "zero-tolerance" policy towards torture.

    Critics accuse the United States of downplaying human rights abuses in Bahrain because of its military and security interest there. The dilemma is similar to that in Egypt, where annual U.S. aid of $1.3 billion to Egypt's armed forces sits uncomfortably with the military's recent overthrow of the democratically-elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

    In jail since October, Maidan answered questions posed to him by Reuters through his family and a family friend, who delivered a transcript of his answers. He denies the charges against him; and he, his family and a U.S. based advocacy group that supports human rights in Bahrain say Washington has done little to help him.

    A U.S. State Department official said the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain has been providing "appropriate consular services" to Maidan. The family says a designated consular officer has seen Maidan several times and has attended his court hearings.

    The State Department official said Washington has emphasized the importance of Bahrain's commitment to "transparent judicial proceedings in accordance with universal human rights and due process."

    "SECRET SOURCES"

    Maidan was born in Connecticut in the United States in 1988 where his Saudi father studied for a Masters degree in public health at Yale University. His mother is a Bahraini, but because Maidan was born on American soil he is a U.S. national.

    His parents divorced a few years later and Amina returned with her children to Bahrain. Maidan, with only a U.S. passport, could not attend a state university and private colleges were too expensive. He applied several times for work at the U.S. embassy and at the naval base, which hosts thousands of U.S. personnel, but was not offered anything.

    Instead he undertook a number of odd jobs, including working at a petrol station and setting up internet connections for a telecoms company.

    The family has stayed away from the protests of the past two years, according to Amina. That includes a memorial service that took place on October 5, 2012, for a Shi'ite man who had been jailed after the February 2011 uprising and later died in hospital. The memorial march turned violent and police used water cannon and teargas to disperse protesters. One water cannon vehicle caught fire when protesters threw petrol bombs and stones.

    Maidan says he was not at the march but at home, an assertion supported by his close friend, Hussein Traif, who says he asked Maidan to pick him up from the memorial procession, but that Maidan said he did not want to leave home while the situation was tense.

    Less than two days later, the police came for Maidan. The Bahraini government says he was involved in "setting a police vehicle ablaze (at the memorial service) while the policemen were still inside and then proceeded to attack the policemen on the ground resulting in the injury of three officers."

    The government say the crimes threatened Bahrain's national security, and Maidan faces charges of attempted murder, intentionally setting ablaze a police vehicle, damaging a police car, illegal gathering and possession of explosives. According to a Bahrain Public Prosecution document, a security officer said his proof Maidan attended the memorial service stems from eight "secret sources" that have not been disclosed.

    Maidan and his mother say he was forced to confess to being at the event.

    "After four hours of interrogation I confessed to everything, I signed papers even though I had no idea what had been written on them," Maidan told Reuters through his family. "Out of fear of more beatings, I urinated on myself, and they forced me after signing to speak in front of a camera after making me memorize what to say."

    The Bahraini government said in a statement that its "secret sources" form only part of the evidence against Maidan, and that "all interrogations and interviews take place in a designated room that is fitted with audio and video recording equipment."

    Soon after Maidan was taken away, his mother contacted the U.S. embassy in Bahrain for help, partly because she was concerned about her son's medical condition. Maidan has stomach ulcers and suffers from scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. His mother says requests for specialist medical treatment have been denied; Reuters was unable to verify that claim.

    The U.S. State Department official said: "The consular section has continued to be in contact with the relevant Government of Bahrain authorities, and has repeatedly emphasized to the (government) that Mr. Al Maidan should receive appropriate medical care and food to meet his particular health needs."

    The Bahraini government told Reuters that Maidan receives proper care while in prison, including health care.

    MISSED OPPORTUNITY

    After the initial uprising, in which at least 35 people were killed, Bahrain's government commissioned the prominent Egyptian-American jurist Cherif Bassiouni to lead an independent inquiry into the violence.

    His report, published in November 2011 and known as the Bassiouni Report, said arrests in the wake of riots showed a pattern of behavior "designed to inspire terror in the arrested persons." The report said authorities had used widespread and excessive force, including torture to extract confessions.

    The Bahraini government says it has taken steps to address the problems by dismissing those responsible and introducing cameras at police stations.

    Despite U.S. Congressional criticism of alleged abuses, Washington has approved some military sales to Bahrain. A U.S. State Department fact sheet dated August 28, 2012, stated that military sales to Bahrain since 2000 have totaled $1.4 billion.

    A former U.S. government official said the fact that the U.S. signed a military package last year tended to communicate "business as usual." He added: "That was perhaps a missed opportunity where the United States could have applied some subtle pressure to get the (Bahraini) monarchy more responsive."

    Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East expert at the Congressional Research Service and author of a paper on Bahrain published in April, told Reuters the United States is "basically ... on the side of the government, of the regime" and that U.S. officials do not think the Shi'ite majority have the right to topple the government or call for their demands using violence.

    Instead, U.S. officials want a compromise so that "there's no disruption to the close security relationship", said Katzman.

    Another U.S. State Department official praised Bahrain's King Hamad for showing "significant leadership" in initiating the Bassiouni commission and noted that Crown Prince Salman, seen as a figure with a more reformist mindset, had been appointed Bahrain's First Deputy Prime Minister. The move signaled Bahrain's commitment to a "long-term reform program," said the official.

    But so far talks between the Shi'ite opposition and the government have made little progress. Mutual distrust has stymied any breakthrough. On one side, the Shi'ite opposition insist on a representative of the king being present at the talks; on the other, the government continues to push the message that Iran, a majority Shi'ite nation, and Hezbollah, the Shi'ite Islamist group based in Lebanon, are fomenting the unrest in Bahrain.

    The opposition, Iran and Hezbollah deny that charge. The Bassiouni Report did not find any discernible link between Iran and the protests of early 2011.

    Nevertheless, Washington and London view Bahrain partly through the prism of Iran, which is pursuing a program of nuclear development. Iran says it is for peaceful purposes, the West suspects it is to develop weapons. Amid such tensions, the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain is a vital asset.

    On a patrol with anti-riot forces in Bahrain earlier this year, Reuters journalists witnessed a snapshot of the near-daily clashes that continue to rock the streets. Police drove along main thoroughfares clearing roadblocks set up by angry Shi'ite youths. While police tackled barricades and burning tires, youths often hurled insults and petrol bombs. The police responded with teargas. On other occasions they have sometimes used birdshot.

    Recently, youths have targeted police patrols, and there have been attacks on a Bahraini lawmaker's house as well as on a mosque in a district where many members of Bahrain's royal family live.

    "Tamarrod" (Rebel) youths, who have taken inspiration from a similar protest movement in Egyptthat led to the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last month, have called for anti-government protests in Bahrain on August 14.

    Authorities have warned that anyone joining the demonstrations would face the force of law and have toughened penalties against what they consider "terrorist crimes," in moves Human Rights Watch has said would effectively create "a new state of emergency".

    Meanwhile, Maidan said the U.S. has not done enough to make it clear he is entitled to the rights of a U.S. citizen. He told Reuters he has lost more than 15 kilograms while in prison and has occasionally been restricted to drinking one bottle of water a day. "The embassy has not shown everyone the legal rights I have and the fact that I'm innocent until proven guilty and should have all rights," he said.

    The Bahraini government told Reuters that Maidan "enjoys all privileges, rights and care that all the inmates receive without any exception." A verdict in his case is expected in September.

    (Additional reporting by William Maclean in Dubai and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing By Richard Woods and Simon Robinson)

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/12/us-bahrain-rights-specialreport-idUSBRE97B08W20130812

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    By Bill LawGulf analyst, BBC News

     

     

    This is the story of a young man called Mohammed Mirza. The Bahrain police say he is a dangerous criminal. His family believe he is the victim of police brutality and a biased prosecution system.

    Mohammed Mirza is a 22-year-old Shia Muslim from the village of al-Dair, close to the capital, Manama.

    In February 2011, thousands of peaceful demonstrators occupied Pearl Roundabout, an iconic landmark in the city. They were demanding democratic reform and an end to discrimination.

    Among the demonstrators was Mohammed Mirza.

    In a country where the Shia majority has long complained of unfair treatment at the hands of its Sunni Muslim rulers, the al-Khalifas, many but by no means all of the Pearl Roundabout protesters were Shia.

    The roundabout was cleared by force and in the months that followed, more than 50 people, including five police officers, died. Hundreds of Shia were arrested, thousands were arbitrarily sacked from their jobs and at least three were beaten to death in custody.

    The brutality of the government's handling of the uprising sparked further demonstrations.

    Marches and rallies in Manama were banned and peaceful protesters routinely attacked by the police.

    In villages outside the city, Shia youth, many armed with Molotov cocktails, taunted and counter-attacked the riot police.

    The response - heavy tear-gassing, stun grenades, birdshot blasts and arbitrary arrests - did not discriminate between combatants and the innocent.

    Mohammed Mirza's family and his lawyers have always maintained that he was a non-violent protester. The police say otherwise.

    In November 2011, according to his lawyers, he was convicted in absentia for illegal gathering and the vandalising of a police car by throwing stones. He was sentenced to one year in jail.

    On 24 January 2012, he was again convicted of similar charges and received a second one-year sentence. In May he received a third sentence, this time of six months for illegal gathering.

    All this time Mohammed Mirza was on the run.

    He was finally caught in June of 2012 at his aunt's house in al-Dair, after he had been hit in the back with birdshot the previous week. His family insist that he was wounded after riot police opened fire on a peaceful rally in his home village.

    The police version is that he was among a group of young rioters and the birdshot was fired by an officer only as a last resort when his life was threatened.

     

    Charge after charge

    Following his arrest, the family told the BBC, he was detained for six days before they had any word of his whereabouts, in a brief phone call he was allowed to make.

    When they were able to see him, three weeks after his arrest, Mohammed told them he had been beaten around his head and face and on his back.

    He said that those who had beaten him had deliberately targeted the entry wounds caused by the birdshot pellets still embedded in his back.

    "They beat him and tortured him with electric shocks," a family member who saw him at the time told the BBC.

    "[The police] saw the wounds on his back and they focused the beatings on the wounds to make it more painful for him."

    Under duress, according to his lawyers, he confessed to crimes he had not committed. He spent nearly a year in Manama's Dry Dock remand centre.

    Each time one of his cases came to an appeal court, the judge threw it out citing a lack of creditable evidence, according to his lawyer Abdullah Zainaldeen.

    Mr Zainaldeen told the BBC: "We go to court, the prosecution evidence is weak and so the case is thrown out, but then when I go to have him released from jail another charge is brought against him."

    He called it a game, designed by the police and the public prosecutor's office to keep Mohammed Mirza imprisoned for crimes they had no real evidence he had actually committed.

    The family also says that as a result of the beatings, Mohammed Mirza is in urgent need of medical attention. His hearing and sight have been affected and he remains in extreme pain as the birdshot pellets have yet to be removed.

    "He needs a specialist urgently to see his back and a doctor for his hearing and his eyes. We asked many times and we sent many letters but after all this until now they still have not taken him to any specialists."

    The BBC brought his case to the attention of the Bahraini Chief of Police and to the police ombudsman and were told the authorities would investigate the family's claims.

    But according to a lawyer familiar with the case, Mohammed Mirza has now been moved to Jau prison south of Manama to serve his latest sentence and has yet to receive appropriate medical care for his injuries.

     

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23358139

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    Family of AbdulJabbar Ahmed is concerned about the fate of their son and demand his release

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concern about the safety of Bahraini citizen Abduljabbar Ahmed, 32 years old, from Karzakkan - south of the capital Manama. Ahmed was reportedly abducted from his office at dawn on Sunday, August 11 2013, by intelligence officers in civilian clothing who said they work for the Criminal Investigations Department.

    The BCHR team received detailed information about the case that provided that AbdulJabbar Ahmed Ali works in the Samsung Construction Co. as security guard, and this company has been assigned the responsibility of guarding a sewage station in the Hidd area. While Ahmed was at work inside the security office, approximately at 2 am, a civilian car tried to enter the station, but the guards told those inside the car that they are not allowed to enter that area. A few minutes later, a police patrol tried to access as well but the guards prevented them from doing so. After approximately 15 minutes, civilian cars and police patrols surrounded the security room, entering by force and confiscating the phones and car keys of the present guards. They informed them that they are affiliated with the Criminal Investigations Department and commenced to search the guards’ cars. They then returned all phones and car keys except for Abduljabbar Ahmeds; who they arrested and took to an unknown location. Before leaving the security guards’ room, the civilians affiliated with the CID threatened the present guards from talking to anyone about the arrest of AbdulJabbar Ahmed otherwise they will face the same fate.

     At approximately 4:45 am, a group of civilians accompanied by police patrols raided the apartment of AbdulJabbar Ahmed located inside his father's house in the village of Karzakkan, searching the apartment without providing a search warrant. They then left the apartment without informing the family that their son had been arrested.  The family contacted Abduljabbar Ahmed to alert him about the incident, but his phones were turned off. After numerous attempts, the family received the news of his arrest. The family informed the BCHR that they believed the authorities had tampered with Ahmed’s phone as his “Watsapp” application status was online during the time he was arrested.

    On the evening of Tuesday, August 13, 2013, Abduljabbar Ahmed contacted his family from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The phone call lasted for less than a minute during which he only said he “was fine and no time to talk”. He made another phone call from the CID building at noon on Thursday, August 15, 2013 and informed them that he “is fine” and when they asked about his place of detention, the line was cut before he could answer.  The lawyer tried to get information about Ahmed’s place of detention and the case for which he was arrested, but the authorities, until the time of publishing this statement, refused to release any information.

    AbdulJabbar Ahmed’s family fears that he may be subjected to torture and  ill-treatment at the CID building. The BCHR has documented numerous cases of torture that occurred, and in most cases the detainees had called his family and stated that he “is fine”. His lawyer has also expressed concern about the possibility of Ahmed being taken to the Public Prosecution for interrogation without a lawyer, that has become a recurring event in Bahrain. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has documented several cases in which detainees were forced to confess malicious charges under threats of torture; and other detainees also reported getting beaten and/or threatened by the prosecutor and some renewal judges.

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls for the following:

    • Reveal the whereabouts of detained AbdulJabbar Ahmed, and in the absence of any evidence of crime, immediately and unconditionally release him
    • Allow Ahmed the right to a lawyer and family visits
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  • 08/16/13--01:56: My Parents' Bahrain
  • by Maryam Al-Khawaja

    Published on jadaliyya.com

    I write this not as the human rights defender I have become known as, but rather as the daughter of Bahraini parents who painted an ideal image of Bahrain for us since we were children growing up in exile in Denmark. This reflection was prompted following my recent attempt at traveling to Bahrain when British Airways prevented me from boarding my flight at the orders of the Bahraini government. The realization that I am no longer in self-imposed exile triggered images of the Bahrain that my parents described while in exile, in comparison to the images I have of Bahrain now.

    Born in Syria to activist parents who were forced to leave Bahrain, and then living in Denmark, I did not know the Bahrain my parents reminisced about until we moved there when I was fourteen years old. The Bahraini community in Denmark was rather small, comprised of twenty-one families. Our parents did everything they could to make sure we were raised in an environment that preserved our Bahraini identity. Once a week we gathered at the Bahraini-Danish Society, where they organized programs for us about Bahraini culture and society. We memorized and sang songs about loving Bahrain; we put on plays from old Bahraini series, and we celebrated religious and national events.

    Bahrain in our minds was a paradise—the land of a million palm trees, of natural freshwater springs like Ain Athari, and a burning sun. My parents recall making what was once the long journeys (now a ten minute drive) to Athari to swim in the natural spring, and sit under palm trees to seek shade from the sun. My grandfather had a fishing equipment store at a time when the fishing industry thrived and had not yet been monopolized by the ruling family. Bahrain was an image of pearl divers and Bahraini men in their local attire catching fish. Naturally, we also learned of Al Khalifa’s repression in Bahrain. My uncle was a political prisoner, like thousands of others during the 1990s. Torture was systemic and systematic, and human rights violations were rampant. People were tortured to death, and we grew up hearing stories of how many individuals and families were forced into exile, their citizenships revoked. We knew Ian Henderson then as the British man who set up “modern” and more efficient torture methods that the regime used, and Adel Fulaifel as his right hand man.

    Continue reading on http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/13532/my-parents-bahrain 

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    Reporters Without Borders is concerned by a new upsurge in abusive treatment of journalists in the run-up to the major “Tamarod” rally that the opposition has called for 14 August.

    Journalists who intend to cover the demonstration – and thereby challenge the government’s insistence that everything is perfect in Bahrain – are exposed to arrest and mistreatment. There is still no news of a cameraman who was arrested on 2 August.

    “The authorities plan to impose a news blackout on the 14 August demonstration by jailing netizens and preventing journalists and human rights defenders from visiting Bahrain.” Reporters Without Borders said.
    “They have had no hesitation about arbitrarily arresting news providers and denying them access to lawyers while failing to bring formal charges against them. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.”

    At least two bloggers, two photographers and a cameraman have been arrested in Bahrain since the end of July. The police arrested them to prevent them from covering the 14 August rally, several sources told Reporters Without Borders.

    Masked security agents arrested the blogger Mohamed Hassan at his home at 2 a.m. on 31 July, seizing his computer and mobile phone. The photographer Hussain Hubail was arrested the same day as he was about to leave Manama international airport. Both were taken to El-Hod El-Gaf prison without being charged, and were held for several days without being able to contact lawyers or their families. It was only on 7 August that there were able to talk to a lawyer and were brought before prosecutors.

    They have been charged being members of the “14 February media network,”calling for and participating in illegal demonstrations, inciting hatred against the government and being in contact with exiled members of the Bahraini opposition. Hassan has said he was tortured in detention. He said that he was beaten on the back, lower abdomen and hands, was given electric shocks, and was forced to sign documents without knowing their content. Hubail was forced to remain standing for three days while being punched, kicked and insulted.

    This is not the first time that Hassan – who has kept a blog on human rights and politics in Bahrain since 2007 – has been persecuted in connection with his journalistic work. He was briefly arrested in June 2012 because of what he was writing about the opposition in his blog and for local newspapers. He stopped blogging on 29 April.
    Hubail is a freelance photographer who has worked for Agence France-Presse, Voice of America and other media. The independent newspaper Al-Wasat awarded him its prize in May for a photo of demonstrators in a cloud of teargas.
     

    Since the arrests of Hassan and Hubail, others have been arrested on the same charges – participating in the 14 February media network and inciting hatred against the government.

    Qassim Zain Aldeen, a freelance cameraman who posts content on several local news portals, has been held at an unknown located ever since his arrest at his home on 2 August and his family has not been told what he is charged with. He was previously held for six months in 2012.

    Ahmed Al-Fardan, a photographer for the Demotix and Sipa agencies who won the Freedom House photography prize in 2012, was arrested in a west Manama café on 8 August by plainclothes police who beat him and threatened to kill him if he did not cooperate and provide photos of demonstrators. He was released a few hours later with several injuries.

    Security agents arrested Hassan’s lawyer, Abdul Aziz Mousa, at this home on 7 August and seized his computer because he posted the names of the defendants on his Twitter account, along with the charges against them and the acts of torture to which they had been submitted.
    The prosecutor-general said Mousa has been charged with “publishing the names of defendants without permission and divulging the secrets of an investigation.”

    A reporter and a human rights defender have meanwhile been prevented from entering Bahrain.Hyder Abbasi of Al-Jazeera English was prevented from boarding a flight from Doha to Bahrain on 7 August because he is a journalist. 

    Two days later, the British authorities told Maryam Al-Khawaja, the acting president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, that the Bahraini authorities had forbidden her from visiting the country.

    The heightened crackdown on Bahraini Internet users and activists comes just days after the National Assembly recommended tougher penalties for “those who use social networks in an illegal way [and…] use those networks to disseminate false information to foreign sides which plot against the country’s security and stability.”

    http://en.rsf.org/bahrain-use-of-arrest-and-torture-in-bid-13-08-2013,45045.html

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    As the Government of Bahrain prepares to implement a new series of draconian security measures, human rights defenders and political activists are preparing to use the 14th August anniversary of Bahrain's independence from England to challenge the ongoing security clampdown.

    “The credibility of the Government of Bahrain is seriously damaged by its consistent refusal to address serious and deep rooted human rights problems in the country and for its persuit of a hardline security policy targeting human rights defenders and political activists” said Front Line Defenders, Executive Director, Mary Lawlor in Dublin today.

    “We have seen an ongoing pattern of threats, intimidation and arrests of human rights defenders accompanied by numerous serious and credible allegations of torture while in incommunicado detention and which the government has signally failed to fully investigate” she added.

    Blogger and human rights defender Mohamed Hassan was arrested on 31 July 2013 and initially held for a week in incommunicado detention. When his lawyer Abdul Aziz Moussa visited him he saw evidence of torture on his arms. After he went public with this information he was himself arrested.

    The current detention of Mohamed Hassan is part of an alarming wave of suppressive actions targeting human rights defenders and peaceful protesters. The clampdown has intensified in recent days, particularly targeting individuals perceived as sympathetic to the 'tamarrod' movement, which calls for a nation-wide protest on 14 August 2013.

    On 09 August Prominent human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja was prevented from boarding a flight to Bahrain having been told that she has been banned from entering the country by the Bahraini authorities. Meanwhile human rights defenders such as Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja continue to serve lengthy prison terms handed down after unfair trials.

    Front Line Defenders calls upon the Government of Bahrain to immediately release all human rights currently in detention and to ensure respect for the peaceful and legitimate work of human rights defenders.

    - See more at: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/23519#sthash.J6TEi8u1.dpuf 

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    New York, August 1, 2013--A Bahraini blogger has been detained and a photographer is missing amid signs that Bahraini authorities are trying to crack down on critical voices ahead of protests planned for August 14, according to news reports.

    "Bahraini authorities have a record of suppressing critical news and commentary, which has had the effect of obscuring the extent of the country's unrest from the rest of the world," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour.

    Masked security agents arrested blogger Mohamed Hassan at his home in Sitra early on Wednesday, news reports said. The agents confiscated Hassan's computer and cell phone, the reports said. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights told CPJ that authorities have denied having Hassan in custody at the Dry Dock Detention Center in the town of Hidd, where the family believes he is being held. Authorities have not disclosed the charges against him.

    Authorities have harassed and detained Hassan several times since early 2012. Hassan, who often covered human rights and politics in Bahrain for his blog, Safybh, was previously summoned for interrogation in June 2012 in connection with his writing and involvement in the Bahraini opposition, according to the Bahraini Center for Human Rights. He stopped writing his blog on April 29, 2013. He has also worked as a fixer for news organizations.

    Another journalist, Hussein Hubail, a freelance photographer who is also Hassan's friend, has been reported missing, according to news reports. The accounts said the journalist had not been heard from since he sent a message on Wednesday that said he believed police were going to arrest him while at the airport.

    Hubail's family told Bahraini news outlets that they did not know his whereabouts.

    Hubail, who photographs opposition protests in Bahrain, has had his work published by Agence France-Presse and other news outlets. In May, independent newspaper Al-Wasatawarded him a photography prize for his picture of protesters enshrouded in tear gas.

    The arrests come as political tensions rise in Bahrain over a protest planned for August 14 that has been modeled after the demonstrations that led to the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. King Hamad Bin Issa al-Khalifa decreed newmeasures on Wednesday to crack down on protesters who the government believed were engaging in terrorist activities.

    "Authorities should release Mohamed Hassan and should immediately disclose whether they are holding Hussein Hubail and under what circumstances," CPJ's Mansour said.

    At least one other journalist is imprisoned in Bahrain. Ahmed Humaidan, a photographer, was arrested in December on accusations of participating in illegal protests. His trial has been delayed several times.

    CPJ research shows that Bahraini authorities have detained numerous critical journalists over the past two years in efforts to suppress coverage of protests and stories that might depict unflattering conditions in the country.

     

    • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ's Bahrain page here.

    http://cpj.org/2013/08/journalist-arrested-another-believed-to-be-held-in.php

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    UA: 217/13 Index: MDE 11/032/2013 Bahrain Date: 13 August 2013

    Bahraini banker Mohammad Sanad al-Makina was arrested on 9 August at Bahrain International Airport when leaving for a holiday with members of his family. He faces several charges including “inciting hatred against the regime”. He is a prisoner of conscience.

    Mohammad Sanad al-Makina, aged 27, is a banker and a member of a Bahraini political association, the National Democratic Rally. He and 13 members of his family were prevented from boarding a flight to Sri Lanka on 9 August at about 4.30pm. They were released after about an hour, except for Mohammad Sanad al-Makina. The authorities confiscated both his mobile phones, as well as a laptop computer, tablet computer and camera in his possession.

    Mohammad Sanad al-Makina was able to phone his family the next evening, and told them he was at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) and would be taken to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) the following day. He appeared before the PPO on 11 August and was interrogated for two hours, with his lawyer present. The PPO charged him with “calling for the country’s political system to be changed by force”, “inciting hatred against the regime”, “inciting people to ignore the law” and “calling for illegal gatherings” and ordered that he be detained for 45 days pending investigation. He was later transferred to Dry Dock prison in the capital, Manama, where his father tried to visit him on 12 August but was denied access to his son because it was a public holiday in Bahrain, for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.

    Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:

    • Expressing concern that Mohammad Sanad al-Makina is a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and urging the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally;
    • Urging them to protect Mohammad Sanad al-Makina from torture and other ill-treatment.

     

    PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 24 SEPTEMBER 2013 TO:

    King

    Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa

    Office of His Majesty the King

    P.O. Box 555

    Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama,

    Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1766 4587

    Salutation: Your Majesty

     

    Minister of Interior

    Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa

    Ministry of Interior

    P.O. Box 13, al-Manama,

    Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1723 2661

    Twitter: @moi_Bahrain

    Salutation: Your Excellency

     

    And copies to:

    Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs

    Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa

    Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs

    P. O. Box 450, al-Manama,

    Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1753 1284

    Email: minister@justice.gov.bh

    Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali

     

    Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

    Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

     

     

    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

    More than two years since the uprising in Bahrain and the subsequent fanfare of reform, prisoners of conscience (including many arrested during the protests) remain behind bars and the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are still being suppressed. In recent months more people have been jailed simply for daring to express their views, whether via Twitter or on peaceful marches. Bahraini courts have appeared more concerned with toeing the government’s line than offering effective remedy to Bahrainis and upholding the rule of law.

    The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), appointed by Royal Order on 29 June 2011, was charged with investigating and reporting on human rights violations committed in connection with the 2011 protests. At the launch of the BICI report in November 2011, the government publicly committed itself to implementing the recommendations set out in the report. The report recounted the government’s response to the mass protests and documented wide-ranging human rights abuses. Among its key recommendations the report called on the government to bring to account those responsible for human rights violations, including torture and excessive use of force, and carry out independent investigations into allegations of torture. However, many of the government’s pledges remain unfulfilled. The establishment of BICI and its report was considered to be a groundbreaking initiative, but after more than 18 months the promise of meaningful reform has been betrayed by the government’s unwillingness to implement key recommendations around accountability. This includes its failure to carry out independent, effective and transparent investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and excessive use of force, and to prosecute all those who gave the orders to commit human rights abuses. For further information see: Bahrain: Reform shelved, repression unleashed (http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/062/2012/en).

    In response to a recent increase in violence, and in anticipation of planned large demonstrations by the opposition, Bahrain’s parliament held an extraordinary session on 28 July at which it submitted 22 recommendations to the King, Shaikh Hamad Bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa; the recommendations toughen punishments laid out in the 2006 anti-terrorism law. The King welcomed the recommendations the next day, and ordered the prime minister to ensure that they were urgently implemented by the government. Bahrain’s constitution (Article 38) gives the King the power to issue decrees that have the force of law when parliament is in recess. In these circumstances the government prepares the draft amendments and the King ratifies them.

    The King issued two emergency decrees on 6 August. One of them amends the 1973 Law on Public Gatherings and Demonstrations, to ban demonstrations, sit-ins, marches and public gatherings in the capital, Manama. The 1976 juvenile law was also amended and now stipulates that if anyone under 16 years of age takes part in a demonstration, public gathering or sit-in, his or her parents will be warned in writing by the Ministry of Interior. If six months after the warning the juvenile is found in a new demonstration his or her father could face jail, a fine or both. Amnesty International fears that these draconian measures will be used in an attempt to legitimize state violence as new protests are being planned for 14 August.

    Name: Mohammad Sanad al-Makina

    Gender m/f: m

    UA: 217/13 Index: MDE 11/032/2013 Issue Date: 13 August 2013

    http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/032/2013/en

     

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