The draconian convictions of 20 pro-democracy activists – including eight life sentence verdicts – have been upheld by an appeals court in Bahrain.
The activists were accused of plotting to overthrow the state in demonstrations last year. Among them is Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who was on a hunger strike for 110 days during his detention. The prisoners say they were tortured and forced to make confessions under duress.
An 'inconvenient' revolution
In Bahrain, the king has supreme authority and members of the royal family hold the most senior government and military positions. Since February last year, the regime has violently crushed those daring to protest for democratic freedoms.
The US and other western powers have openly supported pro-democracy uprisings in other Arab Spring nations. But with Bahrain, it's different. The tiny island state is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet – so Bahrain's uprisings are inconvenient for the US, to say the least. As a result, Bahrain gets away with murder.
And yet Bahraini activists, together with citizens and organisations around the world, continue to protest – and continue to get things done. In 2011, hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members helped to stop the F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain by forcing the media spotlight on the injustice happening there. The same global attention fell on Bahrain ahead of the race this year, as thousands took to the street to demonstrate against the regime.
Fight for justice continues
The defendants in this latest trial have vowed to appeal; meanwhile, the struggle to release another prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, continues. A group of UN human rights experts have demanded his immediate release, saying his sentencing represents "yet another blatant attempt by the government of Bahrain to silence those legitimately working to promote basic human rights.”
Bahrain's (poorly named) ministry of human rights claims the UN was relying on "distorted information" – even as Rajab celebrated his birthday in prison on 1 September.
Now, in an effort to overturn his three year prison sentence, friends who operate his Twitter account have set up a petition on Avaaz's new Community Petitions site to free him. Join their call below.
Sources: BBC, Avaaz, Guardian, UN Human Rights, Bloomberg