Here is the account of my diligent correspondent: "I thought I would update you on what is going on in Bahrain. Last wednesday was a horrible depressing day. 21 of Bahrain's most prominent political activists were sentenced. They were charged with plotting to overthrow the Bahraini government by force with the help of the foreign country (i.e. Iran - I don't understand why they just don't say it). These activists represented huge segments of Bahraini society. Among those sentenced to life were Hasan Mushaima and Abdul Wahab Hussain (head of Al Haq and Al Wafa respectively- part of the anti-monarchist coalition), Abdul Jalil Al Singace (head of Al Haq's human rights office), Saeed Al Shihabi (part of Bahrain Freedom movement based in london - sentenced in absentia - wasn't informed of trial against him) and Abdul Hadi AlKhawaja (human rights activist). Ali AbdelEmam, blogger and founder of Bahrain Online (online political forum) was sentenced to 15 years in absentia. He is in hiding. Ibrahim Sharif, head of Waad, was sentenced to 5 years. There were numerous protests after the sentences and I expect even more protests next week once the sentences for the doctors are handed down.
Of course, all of this is happening before the national dialogue which is to start next week. Dialogue isn't the best way to describe it actually. I would call it more of a conference.. 300 people were invited. No one representing the anti-monarchists (a huge segment of the Bahraini population was invited). I believe the labor unions got only one invite or none. The United Barbars Alliance is invited as well as expat groups. The torturer Adel Flaifel will be invited also. In this video, he calls for arming the sunnis of Bahrain: (see minute 3:09 I believe). Al Wefaq issued a statement saying that the dialogue is not serious but then said that it hasn't made a decision whether it will participate or not. Waad has apparently decided to participate and many Waad members are resigning because they are against the dialogue. The government apparently has no preconditions. But of course it is ridden with preconditions. First of all - the government is issuing the invites so of course it is deciding who will participate or not. As I said before, the anti-monarchist opposition groups are not invited and neither is anyone from the February 14 Youth Movement. Topics off the table include the resignation of the Prime Minister, a key demand of the protestors. The real dialogue taking place is between the royal family and their supporters. Last week, the King personally visited the homes of prominent families that are loyal to the monarchy. I wonder what they talked about? This blog discusses the national dialogue in detail: "