HRW Urges EU to Pressure Bahrain to Free Political Prisoners

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the European Union to push the Bahraini regime to free political prisoners who were detained for exercising their rights.

In a statement published on Saturday, the rights group called on the EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton to pressure the Bahraini government for the immediate release of high-profile activists and other Bahrainis imprisoned for peaceful assembly.

The statement came ahead of a joint meeting between the EU and (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC], which will be held in Bahrain on June 30.

If human rights are truly at the center of the EUs foreign relations as its ministers have pledged, then the high representative and member states need to show it at the EU-(P)GCC meeting by vigorously pressing for the release of the Bahraini activists, Lotte Leicht, HRWs EU director, said.

If they dont, they will consign human rights to the margins of the EUs foreign policy, undermine their own credibility, and leave the activists they had promised to support suffering in prison, Leicht added.

Thirteen opposition leaders are currently serving prison terms for playing a role in the popular uprising that began in the kingdom in 2011.

A Bahraini court has handed down life sentences to seven of the accused, including human rights activist Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have staged numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

The Bahraini government promptly launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring states.

Dozens of Bahraini people have been killed in the crackdown, and the security forces have arrested hundreds, including doctors and nurses who had treated injured revolutionaries.