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BAHRAIN: Activists' torture allegations shadow elections

November 2, 2010 |  7:00 am

Bahrain protest

Pro-government groups may have retained control of Bahrain's legislature in last weekend's parliamentary runoff, but the victory continues to be shadowed by allegations that security forces brutally tortured at least 25 opposition activists arrested in the run-up to the election.

Last Thursday, members of the group -- bloggers, government critics, political activists and religious leaders -- made their first appearances in court, where they testified to having endured threats and abuse at the hands of authorities.

Abduljalil Al Singace, from the opposition Shiite political society Haq, told the court he was beaten severely for weeks on end and that interrogators threatened to rape his wife, daughters and sister.

"I was beaten on my ears, my crutches were taken away and I was forced to stand for long periods of time in a basement under the National Security Apparatus building," he said, according to a transcript provided by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. "They opened the door so I could hear the others being tortured, and this went on every night after midnight and until sunrise."

Mohammad Habib Muqdad, a cleric who also holds Swedish citizenship, said he was tortured until his eardrums burst, and that he was forced to sign a confession admitting to funding terrorism.

"Some nights, I bled on the pillow due to the severity of the beatings as well as the electric shocks," he told the court. "I am prepared to spend the rest of my life in prison if they are able to prove that I spent a single penny according to what they have said."

United States officials have so far been reluctant to openly condemn Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. The U.S. considers Bahrain an ally and counterweight to Iran.

Asked about the recent crackdown and allegations of torture last month, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley told reporters that the U.S. had "expressed concerns" to the government of Bahrain, but human-rights groups have been critical of the American stance.

"The government has taken over associations and shut down media it doesn't like to silence the loudest critics and intimidate the rest, and Washington says nothing publicly," Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement released by the group in the wake of the arrests.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Protesters demand the release of activists arrested in the run-up to the elections last week. Credit: AFP / Getty

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