Bahrain academic to appeal against prison term

Electrical engineering professor Khalil Al-Halwachi jailed for 10 years on 'fabricated' weapons charges

April 25, 2017
Fishing beach in Bahrain

A Bahraini scholar allegedly jailed in connection with the Arab Spring protests is to appeal his 10-year prison term.

Khalil Al-Halwachi was sentenced in March for possessing a Kalashnikov after more than two and a half years of detention and about 20 trial postponements since his arrest in September 2014.

The former electrical engineering professor, who was a founding member of a political group dissolved by the Arab island state in 2012, denies the charges, stating that the machine gun was planted by Bahraini security officials.

The 59-year-old Imperial College London graduate, who has Swedish residency, claims he has been targeted for his peaceful political activism around the time of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011. He claims he was tortured while he was held in custody in 2011 over his political links to Amal leader Sheikh Al Mahfoodh.

According to Scholars at Risk, a US-based charity that supports academics facing political oppression, Professor Al-Halwachi will appeal his conviction and sentencing on 11 May.

It says that Professor Al-Halwachi has been taken to Jau Prison since his conviction, where he has not been able to see a medical specialist nor gain access to medication despite experiencing several medical issues, including a stroke he reportedly suffered in September 2016.

In addition to reports of inappropriate access to medical care, SAR understands that Professor Al-Halwachi was momentarily held in solitary confinement and has otherwise reported overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and the deprivation of clothing suitable for the prison’s low temperatures.

The charity is asking for supporters to send letters, emails and faxes to the appropriate authorities calling for Professor Al-Halwachi’s release.

Additional charges of “insulting the judiciary” – allegedly imposed after Professor Al-Halwachi questioned his treatment by Bahraini legal officials – should also be dropped, it says, stating that they stem from his peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

Meanwhile, his appeal must proceed in a manner consistent with Bahrain’s obligations under international law, in particular internationally recognised standards of due process, while his well-being in prison must be ensured, including his humane treatment and access to medical care, legal counsel, and family, it adds.

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