Hundreds protest in Bahrain over prisoner’s death

Protesters march in the streets of Diah village after Husain Barakat, a political prisoner, died after contracting COVID.

In this image made from video provided by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, demonstrators march to protest the death of a prisoner in Diah, Bahrain. The banner in Arabic reads: 'The liberated and honourable martyr has prevailed, the martyr prisoner Husain Barakat.' [Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy via AP Photo]

Hundreds of people have held a rare protest in Bahrain over the death of a prisoner from the coronavirus despite being vaccinated months earlier by the island kingdom.

The demonstration on Wednesday night saw protesters march in the streets of the village of Diah over the death earlier in the day of Husain Barakat.

Videos of the protest, which corresponded to Associated Press reporting on the demonstrations, saw those marching shout that they held King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for Barakat’s death over poor care.

An interior ministry statement said Barakat, 48, had been on a respirator and died at a hospital. The ministry said Barakat had received an unnamed two-shot vaccination for the virus.

Bahrain has come under pressure from human rights organisations over prison conditions including overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of medical care.

Since the March outbreak of the disease in Bahrain’s main prison Jau, families have been holding small protests demanding the release of political prisoners and better conditions. There was a violent confrontation between guards and prisoners in April after prisoners protested against conditions.


The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said Barakat received the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm.

Bahrain, like the nearby United Arab Emirates, relied heavily on Sinopharm in their world-record per-capita vaccination campaigns, but now are offering booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine.

There have been reports of low antibody responses in the UAE, which saw that country announce in May it would offer boosters six months after a Sinopharm two-shot vaccination.

The two shots use different technologies. The Pfizer shots, a so-called mRNA vaccine, contain a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognise the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.

The Sinopharm vaccine is an “inactivated” shot made by growing the whole virus in a lab and then killing it.

Coronavirus in Bahrain

Bahrain is now struggling through its worst wave of the virus.

Amid a weeks-long lockdown, daily case numbers have dropped recently. The island, home to 1.6 million people, has seen more than 254,000 reported cases and 1,171 deaths.

Bahrain last week told the AP that 90 percent of new cases in the country were “people who had chosen to receive no vaccinations”.

Barakat had lost his citizenship and been sentenced to life in prison along with 53 other individuals in a 2018 mass trial, according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).

His son was also arrested at the age of 16, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Bahrain’s Public Prosecution said at the time the case involved a little-known armed group it identified as the “Zulfiqar Brigades”.

Zulfiqar is the name of the forked sword of Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad who is revered by Shia Muslims.

Bahrain’s Sunni ruler has wielded denaturalisation and mass trials to beat back dissent on the Shia-majority island off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the years since its 2011 Arab Spring protests.

Dissolved Bahraini opposition group al-Wefaq has called for the release of prisoners of conscience since the start of the pandemic.

Bahrain has freed some prisoners considered at risk, such as pregnant women, in response to the pandemic.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies