Sixty members of the European Parliament members have called on Bahrain to release prisoners of conscience and prominent political detainees because their lives are at risk from Covid-19. The MEPs addressed their appeal to King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa following the release of prominent human rights activist Nabil Rajab last week.
Concerns were expressed in the letter about the prisoners’ health conditions which, say the MEPs, makes them more susceptible to the coronavirus.
“We welcomed the release of 1,786 prisoners on 17 March 2020,” the parliamentarians explained, “but this calculated step to keep prisoners of conscience and prominent political prisoners behind bars is unacceptable. This is in addition to the continuously increasing number of [coronavirus] infection cases.”
The lawmakers stressed that preventive measures such as social distancing are impossible due to overcrowding in Bahrain’s prisons. Many of the prisoners in question require regular medical examinations, which are routinely rejected by the prison authorities.
On Thursday, Bahrain registered the death of eight people due to the virus, the highest daily death toll in the Kingdom since the outbreak of the pandemic. It brought the total number of Covid-19 deaths in Bahrain up to 57. The authorities also announced 469 new cases of infection, bringing the total to 20,430.
Since 2011, the Bahraini authorities have been pursuing political opponents, especially from within the Shia community. While three have been executed by firing squad, dozens more have been sentenced to death, imprisonment and having their citizenship revoked. Many human rights activists also face various charges, including “spreading false news”.