Posted 2007/2/5

Ongoing harassment of Bahraini human rights defenders

State security forces arrested the chair of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Abdulhadi Al-khawaja and the Secretary General of the HAQ Movement for Liberty and Democracy, Hasan Mushaima on 2 February 2007. Abdulhadi Al-khawaja’s arrest is the latest in a pattern of persecution at the hands of the Bahrain authorities.

Reportedly, members of the security forces and masked security personnel called to the houses of both Abdulhadi Al-khawaja and Hasan Mushaima with arrest warrants issued at the request of the Public Prosecutor. They were then taken to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and after a 7 hours and interrogation, were released on bail on Friday night. The charges against them are related to state security crimes including: an intention to change the governing system of the country, circulating false information, insulting the king and inciting hatred against the regime in accordance to articles 160, 165, 168, 172, 173 & 214 of the much criticized Bahraini Penal Code of 1976. If sentenced, both human rights defenders could face more than 10 years imprisonment. The release of the activists came following the eruption of demonstrations and intense clashes with security forces in several different parts of the country in reponse to the arrests this morning.

These arrests strongly signal an attempt by the Bahraini authorities to prevent Abdulhadi Al-khawaja and Hasan Mushaima from carrying out work in defense of human rights. During peaceful demonstrations on the 15 June and 19 July 2005 security forces attacked Abdulhadi Al-khawaja. On 14 December 2005, Abdulhadi Al-khawaja also received a threatening telephone call by someone alleging to be from the Bahraini Ministry for the Interior. The caller is reported to have threatened Abdulhadi Al-khawaja saying he would be charged with crimes of treason if he took part in protests. As a result of this phone call, Abdulhadi Al-khawaja and nine other human rights defenders went to the United Nations building in Bahrain to seek international protection from persecution.

Front Line calls on the authorities to take measures to ensue that all human rights defenders in Bahrain, carrying out their legitimate work in human rights, are able to operate free of all restrictions and harassment.