September 26, 2012

Washington, DC – Today, a Bahraini court sentenced Zainab Al-Khawaja to two months in prison for publicly tearing a picture of Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Human Rights First notes that the ruling confirms Bahrain’s reputation as a volatile place without due respect for the rule of law.

“Nothing says instability like the jailing of peaceful protestors,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The Bahraini regime seems locked into a spiral of imprisoning human rights leaders and it is unable to tolerate freedom of expression. This is not the reform the king promised.” Zainab Al-Khawaja, a well-known activist, is the daughter of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is currently serving a life sentence in prison after being arrested, tortured and given an unfair trial in a military court for taking part in the pro-democracy protest. Throughout the uprising in Bahrain, Zainab Al-Khawaja has worked to bring to light abuses committed by the Bahraini regime. Through her blog and twitter account, @angryarabiya, Zainab has urged to world to show its support for the Bahraini people.

“In 18 months, Bahrain has rocketed from obscurity to international fame as a place where doctors were tortured and human rights activists are jailed for peaceful dissent. Zainab’s sentence reinforces this image of a regime addicted to targeting its human rights defenders, and only able to respond to dissent with repression,” Dooley concluded.

Zainab Al-Khawaja’s verdict comes just one day before another prominent human rights leader, Nabeel Rajab, is scheduled to hear the verdict in his appeal of a three-year prison sentence for his part in what the government calls “illegal gatherings.” Rajab is president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), an organization selected by Human Rights First to receive the 2012 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty.

For more information about these cases or to speak with Dooley, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.

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