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Bahrain urged to release all prisoners of conscience

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Monday urged the government of Bahrain to release all prisoners of conscience [press release] immediately in the wake of an appeal by human rights activist Nabeel Rajab [JURIST news archive] challenging his three-month sentence [JURIST report] for comments he posted on his Twitter [website] page in June. Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) [advocacy website] was arrested in June for publishing comments on his Twitter account criticizing the government and was released on bail [JURIST reports] after spending three weeks in prison. Another case on appeal involves nine health professionals who were convicted for their involvement in the anti-government protests last year [JURIST report]. They are among the 20 medical professionals who were convicted in September. In June a national court overturned or reduced [JURIST report] the sentences for most of them. Their appeal proceeding is expected to take place on July 30 before the country's Court of Cassation. AI's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui stated that the conviction against each of them should be quashed and that they should be released immediately and unconditionally. AI has expressed its concern about the a recent decision that bans the public from hearings against opponents of the government and has continued to call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience.

The tension between Bahrain's government and protesters has been increasing since the violence during last year's protests. Earlier this month the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority (IAA) [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it brought charges against 15 police officers for alleged "mistreatment of inmates in custody" amid complaints about police activity. In June the government also announced [JURIST report] that it would pay $2.6 million in restitution to the families of protesters killed in pro-democracy protests last year to comply with the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) [official website]. In April, AI condemned the country for its continued human rights violations despite reforms following the BICI report [JURIST reports] concerning human rights violations committed against anti-government protesters.

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