Qatar admits virus hit 12 in prison

Qatar, where expatriates make up the majority of the population, has like other Gulf states seen the virus spread among low-wage foreign workers living in cramped quarters. (AFP)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Qatar admits virus hit 12 in prison

Qatar admitted on Tuesday that there were 12 cases of COVID-19 at a jail following a warning by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that prisoners could be at risk of contracting the disease.

HRW had said that six non-Qatari detainees “described a deterioration in prison conditions” at Doha’s Central Prison.

“They said that the prison authorities also further restricted prisoners’ limited access to basic medical care,” it added describing the situation as “an apparent outbreak.”

Michael Page, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, called for the release of “vulnerable prisoners such as older people and those held for low level or nonviolent offenses.”

Qatar, where expatriates make up the majority of the population, has like other Gulf states seen the virus spread among low-wage foreign workers living in cramped quarters.

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The prison authorities restricted prisoners’ limited access to basic medical care, HRW had quoted detainees as saying, describing the situation as ‘an apparent outbreak.’

Almost 34,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country — 1.2 percent of the 2.75 million population — although just 15 people have died.

Masks have been mandatory in public places in Qatar since Sunday in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

Violators of the new rules will face up to three years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000, the world’s toughest penalties for failing to wear a face covering.

Anyone leaving their home will also be required to install a contact tracing app on their phones from Friday.


Bahrain says it broke up militant attack plot in early 2020

Updated 8 min 13 sec ago

Bahrain says it broke up militant attack plot in early 2020

  • The plot targeting diplomats and foreign nationals was foiled earlier in the year
  • Authorities uncovered the plot after finding an explosive on the street believed to have been planted to target a ‘foreign delegation’

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Bahrain said Monday it broke up a plot by militants backed by Iran earlier this year to launch attacks on diplomats and foreigners in the island nation home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
The announcement came hours after Saudi state television and a Bahraini local newspaper implied the plot was new in their reporting Sunday night, just days after the island kingdom normalized relations with Israel. Bahraini government officials, who routinely claim breaking up plots by militants backed by Iran, did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press over the confusion.
The details of the plot became public as tensions between Iran and the US remain high after the Trump administration claimed to have re-invoked all United Nations sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program — something disputed by other world powers. The militants reportedly sought revenge for the US drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January, something long threatened by his colleagues in Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.
Iran’s mission to the UN dismissed Bahrain’s claim of Tehran being involved as just “another instance in a long line of preposterous and false allegations, with no basis in truth.”
“It appears there is no limit to Iran-bashing by the US and its client states in the region, who are trying to divert attention from their recent betrayal to Palestinians and their own people,” mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi told the AP.
The Saudi state TV report aired previously unseen footage of what appeared to be police raiding a home with a hidden passage. The footage showed assault rifles and explosives, apparently seized in the raid.
Nine militants have been arrested, while another nine are believed to be in Iran, the Saudi state TV report said.
Authorities uncovered the plot after finding an explosive on the street believed to have been planted to target a “foreign delegation,” the pro-government Bahraini newspaper Akhbar Al-Khaleej reported, citing the Interior Ministry. The ministry accused the Guard of supporting the militants, who also had surveilled oil sites and military bases, the newspaper said. The militants also planned on assassinating bodyguards of Bahraini officials, the newspaper said.
It wasn’t clear when all the arrests and alleged plots took place, as the Akhbar Al-Khaleej report referred to incidents dating as far back as 2017. The newspaper linked the militants to the Al-Ashtar Brigade, a Shiite group that has claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and attacks in Bahrain, including two that killed police. The group has been sanctioned by the US
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry later published what it described as a “clarification” saying the cases dated to the start of the year and “is not new.” However, media is tightly controlled on the island and access to such trials is routinely limited, suggesting authorities at the least encouraged the initial reporting.
Bahrain is home to the 5th Fleet, which patrols the waterways of the Mideast. Officials have worried in the past that the sailors and Marines attached to the base in Manama could be targeted, as well as others who make up the 7,000 American troops there. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the 5th Fleet, declined to comment and referred questions to the Bahraini government.
Bahrain, an island off the coast of Saudi Arabia, just last week normalized relations with Israel alongside the United Arab Emirates, in part over their joint suspicion of Iran. The UAE has said their move also pushed Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians. Civil society groups in Bahrain have opposed the normalization decision.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the reported arrests in Bahrain.
Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had pushed to take over Bahrain after the British left the country, although Bahrainis in 1970 overwhelmingly supported becoming an independent nation and the UN Security Council unanimously backed that. Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Bahrain’s rulers have blamed Iran for arming militants on the island. Iran denies the accusations.