Bahrain: Authorities Order Suppression of Political Activities and Freedom of Expression
Arrest of Khalil Al-Marzooq, the Political Assistant to the Secretary General of the Largest Political Society in Bahrain, and the Investigation With Dr. Al-Samaheeji on the Charges of Insulting the King
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its deep concern over the ongoing restrictions on peaceful political action and freedom of expression as evidenced through the targeting the leaders of the political opposition as well as human rights defenders. The regime has recently arrested Khalil Al-Marzooq, the political assistant to the Secretary General of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society - the largest political society in Bahrain - and accused him of incitement to commit terrorist crimes; he will remain in custody for 30 days.
On 17 September 2013, the Budaiya Police Station summoned Al-Marzouq for investigation at 7:30 am. He went with his lawyer and spent over six hours waiting for the investigation to begin. The office of the public prosecution charged him with incitement to commit terrorist crimes through his alleged relation and support for the organization of the coalition of 14 February, the office of the public prosecution has also charged Al-Marzooq with exploiting his political position in his political society, which is established in accordance with the law, to incite the public to commit crimes.
The Public Prosecution and the Criminal Investigations Department has based the accusation against Al-Marzooq on the speech he delivered at a mass gathering for the political societies which was held on September 6th, 2013 at Saar Area, west of the capital Manama. At this event, Al-Marqooq lifted the flag associated with the Coalition of Youth February 14, which the authorities in Bahrain accuse of adopting and carrying out terrorist attacks, advocating for the change of government by force, and the incitement to disrupt the Bahrain constitution. The authorities have targeted many individuals for their alleged association with this group, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has criticized the arrest of 50 Bahraini citizens including one woman in the case of joining the 14th of February Youth Coalition, reportedly subjecting them to torture and forcing them to confess to the charges against them, which was followed by a trial in a court which lacks the most basic elements of a fair trial.
Local newspapers have published Al-Marzooq's speech, which included criticism of the government, the ruling family, and the mentality pursued by the security forces to suppress the peaceful activities which demands for reform and change, in addition to criticizing the autocracy and the ruling family’s appropriation of the country’s resources. Al-Marzooq also saluted the February 14th Youth Coalition, which has been active during the past two years in organizing peaceful events and protests; the authorities have fabricated charges against its anonymous members. During his speech, Al-Marzooq added that "we say to those who describe the Coalition as terrorist, you are the terrorist. We support the Coalition, the Coalition was founded to remain, and the Rebellion was founded to remain untill the demands are met, but the authorities did not understand the title of the February 14th, they thought that it is one or two protests, or only a roundabout it can demolish. What happened in the February 14th is a turning point, and the people no longer can accept the ideology of the invasion." Marzooq as well stressed that the regime has committed all kinds of violations, and added " If Al-Khalifa were in AlZubarah today and decided to come to Bahrain as invaders, they won't be able to do so, that is because the world order has changed, the systems have changed."
The arrest of Khalil Al-Marzooq is a continuation of the government’s policy of repressing political speech and activites. In March 2012, twelve citizens, including prominent political leaders human rights activists were arrested and charged with calling to overthrow the regime and calling for a republican system. All were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the authorities are leading a campaign against the institutions of civil society and the rights of citizens' political, particularly Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of association and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which affirms the freedom of opinion and expression. The authorities acts are contrary to statements by its representatives in the media which claim to ensure freedom of opinion, expression, and freedom of political action.
While news spread about the presence of Mr. Khalil Marzouq in Block 9 at Dry Dock Prison, a number of social networking sites and media accounts confirmed his presence at Riffa Police Station. Marzouq is reportedly being held with a prisoner with whom he does not share a common language in order to further isolate him. The security forces use this method to deliberately punish political and human rights leaders, as is the case with detained human rights defender and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab.
The Head of the Monitoring and Documentation Unit at the BCHR, Said Yousif Al-Mouhafdah, has stated that the arrest of Al-Marzouq is a purely political decision to crack down on freedom of expression. Al-Mouhafdah stated that Al-Marzooq's speech did not contain incitement to violence, but rather he emphasized the need for the cooperation between the political societies and supported the peaceful events which assist in reaching a political solution.
In the same context, the Criminal Investigations Department has summoned Dr. Saeed Al-Samaheeji after a speech he delivered at the funeral of the victim Sadiq Sabt who died after he was run over by a car while exercising his legitimate right to peaceful protest. Dr. Al-Samaheeji has denied the charge of insulting the King, and the case was transferred to the court for consideration.
Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the following:
- Immediate and unconditional release of Khalil Al-Marzooq and the dismissal of all charges against him.
- Release of all detained political leaders and all prisoners of conscience.
- An immediate end to the targeting of opposition and the human rights defenders for their demanding activism.