Bahrain : Human Rights Defender Zainab Al-Khawaja Yet Again Faces the Judge for One of 13 Trumped-Up Charges Against Her
Update - 19 Jan 2013
In the case of the public prosecution's appeal against the acquittal of AlKhawaja on charge of insulting a public official at the military hospital, the judge has decided to postpone the trial until 28 February 2013 for verdict. Alkhawaja's lawyer, Mohamed Alwasti, withdrew from the session in protest against the court's refusal to let him question the prosecution's witness. Alkhawaja's others trial are also postponed.
Date: 15th January 2013
Activist and human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja will go to court again on 15th January 2013 to be sentenced for a trumped-up charge of allegedly insulting a police officer.
Al-Khawaja was recently released from prison on the 27th of December 2012 after being arrested on the 9th of December 2012 for staging a one-person protest outside the intensive care unit at Salmaniya hospital, demanding visitation rights for an injured citizen. The security forces prevented the patient’s family from visiting him at the hospital.
Zainab Al-Khawaja currently has thirteen cases against her, 7 of them are active at the court, including the case of ripping a picture of the king. She has already been sentenced to imprisonment in several cases, and received hundreds of dinars in fines.
Photo: Masoma Al-Sayed during a protest
“Insulting a police officer” is a similar charge which was used against Activist Masooma Al-Sayed, which is believed to be aimed to prolong her detention. Masooma was scheduled to be released from prison on the 7th January, 2013, pending trial and paying a fine of 100 BHD, but the prison authorities refused to release her for unknown reasons. Al-Sayed was finally released on the 14th of January 2013. The judge who is prosecuting Al-Sayed is the same judge prosecuting Al-Khawaja.
(More information at: http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/5580)
The BCHR believes that the continued judicial harassment of Zainab Al-Khawaja is directly linked to both her work in the defense of human rights and democracy in Bahrain and for exercising her right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The BCHR sees this prosecution as part of an ongoing trend of harassment targeted at human rights defenders in Bahrain. Leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab has been subjected to similar harassment, which concluded with an initial 3 years prison sentence (refer to bahrainrights.org/en/node/5387) and detained Human Rights Defender Said Yousif Al-Muhafdha (http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/5595) who remains under detention for almost one month for tweeting images of police brutality.
The BCHR calls on the Government of Bahrain to:
1. Immediately drop all charges against Zainab Al-Khawaja, as it is believed that these measures have been taken against her solely due to her legitimate and peaceful work in the defense of human rights, and her right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in accordance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
2. Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and activists including leading human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Nabeel Rajab and Said Yousif Al-Muhafdha.
3. Immediatly put an end to the practice of torture and the ill-treatment of prisoners in Bahrain and investigate those responsible for this mistreatment.
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
We reiterate our call on the international community to put real pressure on the government of Bahrain to stop the acts of ill-treatment practiced on leading human rights defenders and to release them immediately as we believe they have been targeted solely for their legitimate human rights activities.