Posted 2012/12/17

Bahrain: Update – Sentencing and extended detention of human rights defender Ms Zainab Al Khawaja

Zainab Al-Khawaja

On 13 December 2012, human rights defender Ms Zainab Al Khawaja's pre-trial detention was extended by the Public Prosecutor's Office until 27 December 2012. The decision follows charges brought against her on 10 December 2012 for alleged “incitement of hatred against the regime” in connection to her arrest the previous day.

On 9 December 2012, Zainab Al Khawaja was arrested when she went to protest outside the intensive care unit of the Salmaniya hospital complex. She demanded visiting rights for the family of a 19 year-old protester who was seriously injured on 4 December 2012 when a shot fired by a police officer hit him in the face at close range. Since then, he has been kept in Salmaniya hospital but his family were told they could not visit him as they did not have visiting rights. Zainab Al Khawaja held up a photo of the young man outside the hospital's intensive care unit and was arrested and held overnight. Her detention was extended by a week the following day, and extended once again on 13 December. The charge of incitement of hatred against the regime reportedly relates to comments made by the human rights defender only after her arrest.

On 10 December 2012, the human rights defender was also sentenced to one month's imprisonment by Manama Lower Criminal Court in a different case. The charges against her of entering a restricted area and participating in an illegal gathering relate to a protest she attended on 12 February 2012 at Pearl Roundabout in Manama. The sentence is currently suspended as her case is being brought before the Court of Appeals and a bail payment of 100 Bahraini dinars (approx. 202 EUR) was made.

Zainab Al Khawaja is currently involved in several trials due to her continuous peaceful activism defending human rights in Bahrain. She is the daughter of human rights defender Mr Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and former Front Line Defenders staff member, who has been detained since April 2011, subjected to torture and sentenced to life imprisonment after a grossly unfair trial.

Front Line Defenders condemns Zainab Al Khawaja's continued detention and believes she is being targeted solely for her vocal defence of the human rights of others in Bahrain. Front Line Defenders has previously issued a number of appeals on Zainab Al Khawaja, including on 16 February 2012 and 20 December 2011