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Two Bahraini prisoners may be executed within hours, rights groups warn

Activists are warning that the detainees may be executed imminently after their verdict was ratified by the Bahraini king
Ali Hakim al-Arab, left, and Ahmad al-Mullali are at risk of imminent execution (Twitter)

Bahraini rights campaigners and Amnesty International warned on Friday that two jailed Bahrainis are at risk of imminent execution despite calls by international organisations to commute their death sentences.

According to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), the families of Ahmad al-Mullali and Ali Hakim al-Arab, whose death penalties were upheld by an appeals court in May, have been summoned for private prison visits on Friday - a procedure that usually precedes execution.

BCHR said the families received phone calls from Jaw Prison at 9 am and 9:30 am respectively on Friday morning to schedule private meetings at 2 pm that afternoon.

Bahraini law dictates that those on death row receive a family visit on the same day of their execution.

“These private visits are a dangerous indicator of a risk of execution tomorrow morning, i.e. that the king of Bahrain has approved the execution of the above-mentioned individuals, sentenced to death, after having been accused and charged of killing [a police] lieutenant,” the organisation said, urging the government to refrain from carrying out the penalty.

Bahraini human rights defenders are due to organise a vigil on Friday evening in front of their country's embassy in London to call for a halt to the executions. 

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said it “has reason to believe” that the two men could be executed within 24 hours.

It urged Bahraini authorities to halt the execution, condemning the trial of the two men as “grossly unfair”.

“Bahrain’s international allies, primarily the USA and the UK, must speak out today and make a strong call on the Bahraini authorities to stop these imminent executions and end their use of the death penalty,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director.

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a committee in the US Congress, also expressed concern over the reports, calling on Bahrain to "stop their execution". 

Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), have previously reported that Arab, 25, and Malali, 24, were arrested without a warrant on 9 February 2017, and were subjected to torture during their interrogation.

The two were first convicted in January 2018, along with 58 other people, on various charges including “forming and joining a terrorist group” and killing a prison guard during an attempted prison break.

According to HRW, members of the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) beat and electrocuted Arab while blindfolded, pulled out his nails, then forced him to sign a confession.

In May, a panel of UN human rights experts appealed to the government of Bahrain to halt the executions, citing concerns that the two men have been tortured and did not receive a fair trial.

While Devin W. Kenney, a Gulf researcher at Amnesty, said he wasn’t aware of whether the two men were politically involved - he believed their case was undeniably political. 

“The government was unable to convict them via due process in a fair trial, and so instead resorted to the crude method of extraction of ‘confessions’ via torture. This is not the behavior of a justice system that has confidence in its own evidence,” he told Middle East Eye.

Kenney pointed out that many premeditated murder cases in the country had not led to death sentences, sending the message that “the state’s harshest punishment is reserved for national-security offenses and that there will be retribution for the deaths of security officers, regardless of whether culprits can be located and convicted in a fair trial”.

He further pointed to the two men’s belonging to the country’s Shia Muslim community as significant, given that all but all three individuals put to death by Bahrain in the past decade thus far have also been Shia.

Bahrain, which has been ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa dynasty for more than two centuries, has a majority Shia population which has long complained of marginalisation. It has been rocked by sporadic unrest since March 2011 when security forces brutally crushed an Arab Spring-inspired uprising.