Members of European Parliament call for freeing of political prisoners

A delegation from the European Parliament visited Bahrain this week as part of a fact-finding mission covering democracy and human rights.

The delegation comprised of cross-national and cross-party members, headed by Ms. Inese Vaidere of Latvia. Two British MEP’s Richard Howitt and Nicole Sinclaire joined the delegation, as well as Ana Gomes who was denied entry to Bahrain in April this year, along with Laima Andrikiene of Lithuania.

One missing from the delegation was Marietje Schaake, who was denied a visa for the visit. She says that she was told by the Bahraini representation in Brussels she had not received authorisation to enter Bahrain and has never faced such an issue before, except in the case of Iran. She writes about her experience here.

The MEP’s have been in Bahrain since Tuesday (18 Dec) and met with Government officials such as the Justice Minister and Foreign Minister, as well as opposition and civil society representatives. Notably, they also visited a number of political prisoners including Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and Ibrahim Shariff.

Their visit to their detention centres prompting the head of the delegation Vaidere to call for the release of all political prisoners, in order to pave the way for negotiations between the Government and opposition.

Richard Howitt, on behalf of the EuroSocialists, took to Twitter to express the same sentiments:

As @ spkpsn I call for release of #Bahrain political prisoners and direct talks between Govt & opposition http://t.co/PlyKlfwd
@richardhowitt
Richard Howitt MEP

On his twitter page he also described his experiences in meeting with the political prisoners, some of which are below:

Ask #Bahrain political prisoner Abdulhadi al-Khawaja about jail: "Not worried by conditions in prison, it's those outside I want to change."
@richardhowitt
Richard Howitt MEP
#Bahrain political prisoner Ibrahim Sharif tells me"You hear screams through the wall.The worst torture is waiting your turn to be tortured"
@richardhowitt
Richard Howitt MEP

Ana Gomes from Portugal also tweeted extensively about her meetings with the prisoners:

#Bahrain-upon meeting Al Khawaja&Ibrahim Sherif, I must ask King&Crown Prince:how can Bahrain keep locked men so crucial for peace solution?
@AnaGomesMEP
Ana Gomes, MEP
#Bahrain -Nabil Rajab is still not allowed to speak/meet AlKhawaja &Sherif, despite sharing same hall. Not even to his old uncle also there
@AnaGomesMEP
Ana Gomes, MEP
The pairs reports of their meeting with the Justice Minister also sparked a lot of interest as they discussed the issue of revoking citizenships. Although the exact conversations are unknown it seems the Justice Minister talked about deporting those who had their nationalities stripped, with the MEP asking to where should they go?!
#Bahrain Justice Minister discusses with MEPs deportation of those whose nationality withdrawn; as now "stateless" we ask "deport to where?"
@richardhowitt
Richard Howitt MEP
#Bahrain -Justice Minister mentions deportation as I raise nationality stripping. To where? I ask.He steps back.Ugly ploy to instill fear?
@AnaGomesMEP
Ana Gomes, MEP

Richard Howitt also tweeted a number of photos with released political prisoners:

The MEP’s also reported on meeting with opposition parties Al Wefaq and Waad. Ana Gomes described her meeting with Al Wefaq as “interesting” and said they are “ready to engage in dialogue for inclusive democracy.The more delayed, hardliners in both camps win”. Richard Howitt tweeted similar sentiments and the following picture from their meeting:

We recommend you take a look at the timelines of both Richard Howitt and Ana Gomes on twitter who described their visit extensively. Interestingly the Government media tried to claim the visit as a success for them, despite the huge amount of criticism they received. The staunchly pro-Government Gulf Daily News led on their front page with the headline “Europe Backs Bahrain”.

No doubt this will come as a surprise to the MEP’s who showed genuine concern and support for the people of Bahrain and showed no signs of “backing” the Government.

Such a visit will no doubt be useful in raising awareness about the situation in Bahrain and will lead to a much better understanding in the European Parliament of what has happened over the past year.

 

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