Hundreds of released Bahraini political prisoners chant for 'Free Palestine'

Hundreds of released Bahraini political prisoners chant for 'Free Palestine'
Hundreds of freed political prisoners chanted for Palestine after their surprise release by Bahraini authorities
3 min read
10 April, 2024
Bahraini authorities freed hundreds of political prisoners on Tuesday in a surprise move [Getty]

Around 600 political prisoners in Bahrain released on Tuesday chanted support for Palestine on their release.

The released prisoners left the jail "with their heads held high and chanting for Palestine", Bahraini human rights defender and activist Maryam Al-Khawaja said, while videos showed them clapping, chanting and celebrating.

Some waved Palestinian flags, while others praised the Prophet Muhammad.

The release comes after Bahrain unconditionally freed over 1,500 prisoners earlier that day.

This was the biggest royal pardon since the 2011 Bahraini protests and it came one day before the Muslim celebration of Eid Al-Fitr and the silver jubilee of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Al-Khawaja said on X, formerly Twitter, that many of the prisoners had been subject to "horrific torture".

The releases come after longstanding pressure on Manama for their release. Amnesty International called it a "welcome step" but said they "should not have been imprisoned in the first place".

Many of the detainees were being held in the notorious Jau prison, and some of them needed medical help.

Recent riots inside the prisons made the expense of keeping so many behind bars a burden on the state, some media reports said.

"I'm so happy for these prisoners and families – noting that some of them have been granted only partial release…and there’s no guarantee they won’t be rearrested," Al-Khawaja added.

Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said the release came as a complete shock as there "had been no prior indication".

Al-Wadaei’s two brothers-in-law were among the freed prisoners, however, but said the release coincides with a great deal of unease inside the country about Manama's continued relations with Israel amid its brutal war on Gaza.

Bahrain normalised relations with Israel, along with the UAE and later Morocco in a controversial 2020 deal brokered by former US President Donald Trump.

Live Story

Bahrain was the only Gulf country to publicly support the US-led maritime coalition established to prevent Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, following the start of the war on Gaza.

Al-Wadaei  said there was unrest in some jails where "nearly a thousand political prisoners had refused to return to their cells due to maltreatment".

In September, Human Rights Watch said Bahrain should take urgent steps to address grievances of hundreds of prisoners who were on hunger strike, and ensure they are treated humanely.

Niku Jafarina, the Bahrain and Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch said many of the inmates on hunger strike in Jau prison were being held after "grossly unfair trials and have experienced years of abuse in custody".

The rights organisation found some cases where inmates were forced to spend 23 hours a day in their cells.