A group of 15 non-governmental organizations and personalities from around the world have written a joint letter to the US Secretary of State John Kerry requesting that he call for the government of Bahrain to protect the religious freedom of the group of political prisoners known as the Bahrain 13.
The letter states “The Bahrain 13 situation exemplifies the crisis of religious discrimination in Bahrain” and demands that the Bahrain 13 be released from prison immediately. It also calls for an investigation into allegations of degrading treatment of these prisoners.
According to the letter, the authorities have been guilty of interrupting the ritual prayers of the prisoners, and in some cases have shaved their beards and their heads. The letter accuses the Bahrain authorities of a violation of international law and international conventions ratified by Bahrain with respect to the defence of freedom of religion and belief. The government of Bahrain is being asked to protect the religious rights of the Bahrain 13 and all those currently detained in Bahrain.
The Bahrain Thirteen are thirteen Bahraini opposition leaders, rights activists, bloggers and Shia clerics arrested between 17 March and 9 April 2011 in connection with their role in the national uprising. In June 2011, they were tried by a special military court, the National Safety Court, and convicted of “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution”; they received sentences ranging from two years to life in prison. A military appeal court upheld the sentences in September. The trial was “one of the most prominent” before the National Safety Court. A retrial in a civilian court was held in April 2012 but the accused were not released from prison. The sentences were upheld again on 4 September 2012. On 7 January 2013, the defendants lost their last chance of appeal when the Court of Cassation, Bahrain’s top court upheld the sentences.
Included in the list of signatories to the letter are a variety of human rights organizations as well as religious groups including:
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
Center for Inquiry
Christian Solidarity Worldwide – United Kingdom
Church of Scientology National Affairs Office
Human Rights Law Foundation
International Institute for Religious Freedom
Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America
Shia Rights Watch
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church & Society
Mustafa Akhwand Executive Director Shia Rights Watch
Faith JH McDonnell Director, Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan The Institute on Religion and Democracy
Greg Mitchell President The Mitchell Firm
Scott Morgan President Red Eagle Enterprise