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Starbucks: Apologize for Expelling the Families of Torture Victims

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Starbucks proudly claims to have "a positive impact" on the communities the company serves, but managers at a Starbucks outside Bahrain's Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs willingly and immediately agreed to an unofficial government request to kick out a group of journalists, international observers, human rights advocates and the families of torture victims being tried over their opposition to the government.

Last month Bahrain put 25 human rights advocates, opposition members, bloggers and dissident clerics on trial two days ahead of the country's parliamentary elections for (among many charges) “forming an authorized group which incites to overthrow the government.”

The trial is part of an extensive government crackdown on three Bahraini opposition groups, and the detainees claim they have been repeatedly tortured by Bahraini security forces.

On November 25, 2010, dozens of journalists and supporters of the detained human rights activists gathered outside the court for the trial, only to be turned away by security forces. With nothing to do, they waited in the Starbucks adjacent to the courthouse, a large group buying coffee and cakes.

Then representatives of the Ministry of the Interior asked the Starbucks to lock the group of customers inside the facility, a request the staff willingly and immediately agreed to.

A short time later, the representatives asked the Starbucks staff to kick everyone out and close down. Faced with a request to expel community activists and the families of torture victims, all paying customers, what did the Starbucks management do? Did they recall their mission to "bring people together," be "good neighbors" and "a catalyst for change"? Or did they succumb to the request and expel the customers?

They kicked everyone out within minutes.

Call on Starbucks to apologize for violating its own policies and collaborating with a government that tortures and violates the human rights of its citizens.

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