Posted 2013/3/1

Bahrain: Arrest of human rights defender Ms Zainab Al-Khawaja, while Court of Appeal rejects two appeals against prison sentences

Zainab Al-KhawajaZainab Al-Khawaja

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.

Zainab Al-Khawaja is a prominent human rights defender and blogger who has been active in calling for political reform and democracy in Bahrain. 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, Mr Abdulhadi 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.

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned at the arrest of Zainab Al-Khawaja and the rejection of two appeals, actions which Front Line Defenders believes are solely motivated by the human rights defender's peaceful and legitimate activities in calling for political and democratic reform in Bahrain. Front Line Defenders denounces the continuous judicial harassment of Zainab Al-Khawaja and expresses concern for her physical and psychological integrity in light of previous reports of ill-treatment during detention.

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