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Bahraini political prisoner dies of COVID-19

Accused of being a member of a terrorist organization, Husain Barakat was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2018, along with other 53 people.

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The Bahrain Interior Ministry announced that a Bahraini activist, Husain Barakat, died after being infected by COVID-19. A Britain-based human rights group, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), confirmed the death of Barakat who was serving his life sentence in Jau prison where the COVID-19 related cases have been observed in early March.

According to the statement issued by the Interior Ministry, Husain Barakat, 48 years old, received his two-dose vaccination against the COVID-19 disease. Yet, he died after contracting with the virus. Barakat had been referred to the hospital on May 29, the statement added. It was also noted that he was intubated in recent days.

Husain Barakat was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2018, with other 53 people, in a mass trial that 138 defendants were on trial with a charge of being members of a terrorist organization. BIRD, on the other hand, said that Barakat was a political prisoner being held in Bahraini prison located in Jau. Besides, Bahraini authorities had revoked his citizenship, which was later restored by royal decree.

Human rights organizations and the international community have frequently criticized Bahrain over conditions in prisons such as overcrowding, poor sanitation, and lack of medical care. In this sense, small-scale demonstrations have been held in Jau prison since March when the first COVID-19 related case was observed.

In late April, following the Bahraini forces scattering the protesters by violence, the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) issued a statement condemning the “unnecessary and disproportionate” force used by Bahraini police. Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Marta Hurtado, urged Bahraini authorities to immediately launch a “thorough and effective” investigation regarding the incident.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Bahraini prison, rights activists have called the government to release prisoners of conscience. In response, Bahraini authorities have released some prisoners who are being considered at risk, including pregnant women.

Barakat’s son, who had been arrested at the age of 16, was also sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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