Released Bahraini politicians still under threat from government repression

Two Bahraini MPs jailed during anti-government protests might still be facing criminal charges despite being released from prison this weekend, Amnesty International has warned. Matar Matar and Jawad Fairouz, who were reportedly tortured in detention, were among at least three opposition figures freed on 7 August. “The release of these government critics is welcome, if overdue, but the Bahraini authorities must ensure that all charges based on their legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or other human rights are also dropped, so that the threat of re-imprisonment is not left hanging over Matar Matar, Jawad Fairouz and others,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa ProgrammeThe third government critic confirmed released this weekend was human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer, who told Amnesty International today that his peaceful activities remain stifled.”As far as I am concerned the charges against me have not been dropped. The items confiscated from my office have not been returned and my bank account is frozen,” said Mohammed al-Tajer. “I am happy for the release but I was forced to sign papers stating that I would appear in court and be available for interrogation at any time if I was summoned, and I was required to declare that I would not undertake any activity ‘against the country’.”All three released men are alleged to have been tortured by security officials since they were detained in May.”I was forced to stand up with my hands against the wall while I was beaten on my head. They deprived me from sleeping and going to the toilet. I could hear from my cell how others were tortured,” said Mohammed al-Tajer.Matar Matar is alleged to have been tortured after he complained that he was being harassed in prison by a National Security official. Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation into allegations of torture of these three men and other detainees arrested in connection with the protests in Bahrain.”The Bahraini authorities must ensure that all allegations of torture are independently investigated and that those responsible for torture are brought to justice,” said Malcolm Smart.”They must not continue to tolerate such abuse and allow the perpetrators to escape accountability.”Local human rights groups say that several other protesters might have been freed yesterday but Amnesty International has not yet been able to confirm names.