On the left: Abduljalil Al-Singace and on the right: Ali Abdulemam

22 June 2011

Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the long jail sentences that a military court passed today on 21 activists accused of belonging to terrorist organizations and trying to overthrow the government. Eight of them, including human rights activist and blogger Abduljalil Al-Singace, got life sentences. Thirteen others received sentences ranging from two to 15 years in prison. Ali Abdulemam, a blogger who was tried in absentia, was given 15 years.

“The only crime committed by Abdulemam and Al-Singace was freely expressing opinions contrary to those of the government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “These sentences, handed down at the end of trail that flouted defence rights, are typical of the intransigence that the authorities have been showing towards those identified as government opponents, who have borne the full brunt of their repression. The international community must call the government to account on its strategy of stifling all dissent.”

The head of the pro-democracy and civil liberties movement Al Haq, Singace was rearrested on 16 March after being held from September to February. He was previously arrested in 2009 for allegedly trying to destabilize the government because he used his blog (http://alsingace.katib.org) to denounce the deplorable state of civil liberties and discrimination against Bahrain’s Shiite population.

Abdulemam is regarded by fellow Bahrainis as one of his country’s Internet pioneers and is an active member of Bahrain Online, a pro-democracy forum that gets more than 100,000 visitors a day despite being blocked within Bahrain. A contributor to the international bloggers network Global Voices, he has taken part in many international conferences at which he has denounced human rights violations in Bahrain. He was also detained from September to February but avoided being rearrested and has been in hiding for several months.

Human rights activists reported many irregularities during this trial and have been calling for an end to trials before special military courts now that the state of emergency has been lifted. According to the defendants themselves or their families, some of the defendants were tortured or mistreated while in detention.

rsf.org