Abdulhadi Alkhawaja faces 10 years imprisonment for delivering a speech

February 9, 2009

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is highly alerted after learning of a travel ban against its former president Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and the unjustifiable charges and unfair trial against him for delivering a speech highlighting human rights issues and expressing his opinion on the political situation in Bahrain.

Today, February 9, 2009, at 9:00 am, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was prevented from leaving Bahrain Airport. According to Mr. Alkhawaja, the officer at the passport point told him that there is an official order from the General Prosecution Office to prevent him from leaving the country. As the Middle-East Coordinator for Front Line (The International Foundation to Protect Human Rights Defenders) Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was leaving for a field visit to Iraq.

Yesterday, February 8, 2009, was the first session of trial against Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja at the High Criminal Court. He faces charges related specifically to a speech he delivered on January 7, 2009. The Charges were: 1. instigating hatred and disrespect against the ruling regime, 2. broadcasting false and malicious statements, and 3. spreading provocative propaganda related to the internal affairs that could cause damage to the public interest. According to the related article of the 1976 Penal Code, Mr. Alkhawaja could be sentenced for up to 10 years imprisonment. The Head Judge adjourned the case until March 11, 2009.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights considers the travel ban and the unfair trial against Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja as an escalation in the ongoing orchestrated campaign by the authorities to hinder the work of human rights defenders in Bahrain and to further restrict the right to freedom of opinion. Hence, BCHR calls upon all concerned to do whatever possible to:

Remove the travel ban and drop all charges against Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, Put an end to targeting human rights defenders and restricting freedom of opinion, Amend the 1976 Penal Code which allows for punishing individuals for practicing there basic rights, including the right to freedom of opinion, and Securing the independence and impartiality of the judiciary system in Bahrain.

Kindly, find attached the following documents:

Comments and Background on Alkhawaja case (English)

Prosecution Order to put Alkhawaja on Trial (Arabic text and translation to English) Articles of the Penal Code related to Alkhawaja's Case (Arabic text and translation toEnglish) Alkhwaja's Speach based on which he faces trial (summery in English) The full text of the speech (Arabic)

For more information, please contact:

Nabeel Rajab,

Mobile: +973 39633399

Email: nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org