Antécédents de l'affaire: Zainab Al-Khawaja
Le 31 mai 2016, les autorités judiciaires de Manama ont ordonné la suspension de la peine de la défenseuse des droits humains Zainab Al-Khawaja et l'ont libérée pour "raisons humanitaires". Depuis trois mois, elle était emprisonnée dans la prison pour femme d'Isa Town avec son fils âgé d'un an. Les accusations portées contre elle incluent "destruction de biens publics" après qu'elle a déchiré deux fois une photo du Roi du Bahreïn.
Zainab Al-Khawaja est une défenseuse des droits humains bahreïnie et elle milite pour la démocratie. Elle milite aussi activement sur les réseaux sociaux et elle est l'une des figures du soulèvement prodémocratie qui a commencé au Bahreïn en février 2011.
On Monday, 14 March, police raided the home of human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja and seized her and her 15 month old baby. Her family told Front Line Defenders that police broke into the home of Zainab Al-Khawaja's in-laws asking for her. The police video recorded the break-in.
When relatives told the police that Zainab did not live there, the police searched the house and left. They then went to Zainab Al-Khawaja’s apartment where she was with her husband and two young children. The police then took her and her 15 month old son Abdulhadi.
Police informed the human rights defender's husband that she would be taken to Al Hoora police station. Approximately an hour later, Zainab called her family to confirm that she was at Al Hoora. Police informed her that she would be taken for a medical exam at the Ministry of Interior and then to prison.
On Tuesday, 15 March, human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja, Zainab Al-Khawaja's sister, reported that Zainab and her son had been held are being held in Isa Town Women's Detention Centre since Monday.
On 21 October 2015, Bahraini human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja's 32nd birthday, an appeals court reduced one of her five prison sentences from three years to one year.
Al-Khawaja, who was not in court today, is facing a number of trumped-up charges related to her peaceful and legitimate human rights activism, for which she has already spent over a year in prison. She has played a crucial role in documenting and publicizing human rights violations in Bahrain, and has faced arrest, harassment, imprisonment, and psychological abuse for her work in defense of her community.
For tearing up a photo of her country's dictator, King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, Zainab received a three year prison sentence in 2014 and a fine of 3000 Bahraini Dinars (approx. $8000 US). Today, the appeals court upheld the fine, and postponed another three appeals hearings to 3 December 2015.
Maryam Al-Khawaja, Co-Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and Zainab's sister, explained to Front Line Defenders:
“It's important to recognize that this fine is more than a financial burden on Zainab and our family. If she is unwilling or unable to pay it, it can be converted into a prison sentence. In past Bahraini cases, the rate has been one day in prison for every five dinars in unpaid fines. If Zainab cannot or will not pay this at the end of her sentence, she could be given another year and a half in prison.”
The sentence reduced today only accounts for one of the four that the court was meant to hear. The three other cases were postponed for a ruling on 3 December. Two of these carry charges of two months in prison each, handed down on 9 December 2014, for “destroying public property” when she ripped a picture of the King at Budaiyah police station. The third postponed appeal is for a one year prison sentence on the charge of “insulting a public official” (a police officer). [Photo: Scanpix] Photo: Scanpix
In addition to today's reduced sentence and three postponed cases, the human rights defender is also due in court on 17 November to hear the appeal of a nine-month sentence for entering a restricted area at Jaw Prison while seeking to visit her father. Another case of insulting a public official, for which she was sentenced to six months, will also be heard on 17 November.
Because today's sentence was reduced but not suspended, Bahrain security forces can arrest Zainab at any time. She continues to live at home with her 10 month old son, Abdulhadi, 6 year old daughter, Jude, and her husband, with the knowledge that she and her infant could be put in jail at any time.
According to Maryam Al-Khawaja:
“In the long term, today's ruling does mean less prison time for Zainab – unless of course she receives more charges, which is always possible. But in the short term, and for her children, nothing changes. Jude can still have her mother taken from her at any time, without warning. And as soon as Zainab goes to prison, her baby boy will go with her.”
In Bahrain, infants can remain with their mothers in prison until they are two years old. The Kingdom has the highest rate of incarceration per capita in the Middle East, and, despite international standards calling for the specialized care of children in prison, including those incarcerated with their mothers, the Bahraini authorities have subjected children to the same poor conditions that hundreds of other prisoners face. In this instance, Zainab's son faces spending his first birthday in prison due to the government's efforts to silence and cease the legitimate human rights work of his mother.
Zainab Al-Khawaja is a leading figure in Bahrain's human rights movement, who spent most of 2013 in prison for peacefully protesting against the regime. Her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, is one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders and a former Protection Coordinator at Front Line Defenders. He is currently serving a life sentence for his peaceful part in the 2011 protests. In 2014, Zainab's sister, Maryam Al-Khawaja, was sentenced in absentia to a year in prison on charges of assaulting police officers when she arrived in Bahrain in August, a charge she denies.
On 19 November 2014, human rights defender Ms Zainab Al-Khawaja was provisionally released after more than one a month in detention for tearing up a photograph of the King.
The verdict for this case is expected to be issued on 4 December 2014. Verdicts for a further three cases relating to “sabotaging properties belonging to the Ministry of Interior” and “insulting a public official” are expected to be issued on 9 December.
Zainab Al-Khawaja was initially arrested on 14 October 2014, during a court hearing where she faced charges related to tearing up a photograph of the King of Bahrain.
On 14 October 2014, human rights defender Ms Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested during a court hearing where she was expected to face charges related to tearing up a photograph of the King of Bahrain.
Witnesses at the trial reported that Zainab Al-Khawaja, who is almost nine months pregnant, addressed the court defending her right to protest “against oppression and oppressors". She then tore up a photograph of the King of Bahrain and placed it in front of the judge. The court was dismissed, and Zainab Al-Khawaja was placed under arrest and taken to Alhoora police station, where she was allowed to telephone her family.
There are currently five court cases against Zainab Al-Khawaja, following eight previous cases against the human rights defender.
Bahraini human rights defender and pro-democracy activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, imprisoned on a variety of concurrent charges since February 2013, was released from prison Sunday.
A key figure in Bahrain's protest movement, she has drawn worldwide attention to the peaceful protests in Bahrain through her Twitter postings and other online media platforms. The human rights defender has also been campaigning since April 2011 for the release of her father, Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a prominent human rights defender and former Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.
According to the BBC, Ms Khawaja told journalists on Sunday that, “one year in prison is nothing.” Adding, “we have a cause... This will not stop us."
Ms Khawaja has expressed concerns on Twitter that the she will be rearrested when she appears in court again Wednesday on separate charges.
On 25 June 2013, human rights defender Ms Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to two additional months in jail on charges of assaulting two policewomen inside the prison. She is currently in detention in Hoora Detention Centre, where she has been serving three previous sentences on charges of taking part in an illegal gathering, unlawful entry to Pearl Roundabout, and insulting a police officer. She was due to be released at the end of 2013, but the new sentence means she will remain in detention until February 2014.
Zainab Al-Khawaja was charged with assaulting two policewomen inside the prison, after she tried to defend a fellow prisoner from the actions of the police officers. The court rejected the defence lawyer’s request to obtain CCTV footage from the prison authorities, which would have demonstrated Zainab Al-Khawaja’s innocence. Although the two policewomen confirmed the existence of CCTV in the prison during their testimonies, the court rejected the request on the basis of a letter issued from the prison administration stating that there was no CCTV.
During the first court session, which took place on 11 June 2013, the court also rejected the defence lawyer’s request that the letter from the prison administration be included in the court file. The court issued the sentence in the following session, on 25 June 2013, without giving the lawyer the opportunity to rebuke the content of the said letter.
On 22 May 2010, Bahraini courts sentenced, in separate proceedings, human rights defenders Ms Zainab Al-Khawaja and Mr Naji Fateel.
Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to three months in jail on charges of taking part in an illegal gathering and insulting a police officer. The human rights defender was arrested on 27 February 2013, during a peaceful sit-in to protest authorities' refusal to hand over the body of a man who was killed during a demonstration on 14 February 2013. Zainab Al-Khawaja had been serving two sentences on charges of alleged participation in an unauthorised demonstration and unlawful entry to Pearl Roundabout and was due to be released this month. The latest sentencing means she will be in detention until the end of August.
In a separate trial, Naji Fateel was sentenced to six months imprisonment on charges of attending illegal gatherings. He had initially been charged with the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution under article 6 of the controversial Terrorism Act. The human rights defender was arrested on 2 May 2013 and held incommunicado for three days, during which time it is reported that he was tortured.
On 27 February 2013, human rights defender Ms Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested by security forces during a peaceful sit-in in front of the Royal Palace in Al Qudaybiyah. Meanwhile, on 28 February 2013, the Court of Appeal rejected an appeal lodged by the human rights defender against a sentence of two months imprisonment, while an appeal against another one month imprisonment sentence was also rejected by the Court. She currently remains in detention in Hoora Detention Centre.
On 27 February 2013, Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested while protesting against the authorities' refusal to hand over the body of Mr Mahmoud Issa al-Jaziri, a pro-democracy activist killed during a demonstration on 14 February 2013 marking the second anniversary of the uprising in Bahrain.
The activist was reportedly killed after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister, when security forces reportedly attacked demonstrators in Nabi Saleh, South of Manama..
On 28 February 2013, in a seperate development, the Court of Appeal rejected two appeals against prison sentences filed by Zainab Al-Khawaja. The first appeal related to a verdict issued on 10 December 2012, which sentenced Zainab Al-Khawaja to one month of imprisonment. The sentence was based on charges of alleged participation in an unauthorised demonstration on 12 February 2012 and the alleged unlawful entry to Pearl Roundabout, which the authorities reportedly consider as a restricted area, despite the absence of an official decision or law confirming the area as restricted.
As Zainab Al-Khawaja has already served eight days of the above-mentioned sentence, 22 days of detention remain. The second appeal related to a sentence of two months imprisonment issued against the human rights defender, on charges of allegedly destroying property belonging to the Ministry of Interior. Both rejection of both appeals could result in Zainab Al-Khawaja serving a total period of two months and 22 days imprisonment.
Zainab Al-Khawaja has been campaigning since April 2011 for the release of her father, MrAbdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a prominent human rights defender and former Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, who is serving a life sentence passed following a grossly unfair trial.
As a result of her human rights work, Zainab Al-Khawaja has been subjected to a number of previous acts of judicial harassment. For more information on previous acts of judicial persecution faced by Zainab Al-Khawaja, please see Front Line Defenders' urgent appeals issued on 16 February 2012 and 20 December 2011.