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US resumes arms sales to Bahrain. Activists feel abandoned

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But when it halted the arms deal last year, State Department officials promised to monitor Bahrain’s response to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which investigated the crackdown, when deciding whether to resume the deal. The BICI found evidence of systematic abuse by Bahraini security forces, including torture of protesters, and called for those responsible to be held accountable.

US officials said the decision to resume arms sales was made in light of US national security interests. According to a transcript of a conference call with reporters, an unidentified senior administration official said, in a reference to Iran, that the sale would "help Bahrain maintain its external defense capabilities."

The official also said: "We’ve made this decision mindful of the fact that there remain a number of serious unresolved human rights issues in Bahrain which we expect the government of Bahrain to address."

Arrests of activists

The resumption comes despite Bahrain doing little to sufficiently address the issues mentioned in the report, say rights activists. Security forces have continued to use birdshot to break up protests, and wounded protesters are afraid to go to the hospital for fear of being arrested there. 

Most recently, authorities arrested well-known human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, charging him with participating in illegal protests, calling for protests on Twitter, and for “insulting” the Interior Ministry. Mr. Rajab’s arrest a little over a week ago comes after the arrest of Zainab Al Khawaja, another well-known activist, for protesting her father’s detainment. Imprisoned activist Abdulhadi Al Khawaja is on a hunger strike to protest his abuse in detention and his life sentence last year.

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