Amnesty International: Bahraini health workers released on bail will continue to face military trial
8 September 2011
Thirteen Bahraini health workers facing trial before a military court apparently over treating some of those injured during a government crackdown on pro-reform protests were released on bail yesterday.
All 13 are part of an original group of 48 health workers, mostly from al-Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama, arrested in March and April 2011 during the protests.
The trial will resume on 26 September at the National Safety Court of First Instance, a military court established under the state of emergency in force from March to June 2011.
Days before the trial session all detained health workers started a hunger strike in protest at their detention. Two were too weak to attend the trial. Many have complained of torture and other ill-treatment during their detention.
Charges against some of the health workers include hiding weapons and explosives in the hospital, as well as attempting to overthrow the regime by force. However, the court has failed to provide any evidence of that.
"Civilians should not be tried before a military court whose proceedings do not meet international standards for fair trial," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"It is widely believed that the real reason for the detention and trial of these health workers is the fact that they provided medical assistance to people injured during the protests and that they spoke out against the government crackdown to international media.
"If this is true and these health workers are convicted and imprisoned on 26 September, we will consider them prisoners of conscience and call for their immediate and unconditional release.
"The authorities must also carry out a full and independent investigation into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and bring to justice any officials responsible."
The 48 health workers were previously split into two groups, one of 20 accused of felonies, or more serious offences, and the other of 28 accused of misdemeanours, or less serious offences.
Trial proceedings for both groups started in early June.
All those accused of misdemeanours were released on bail before the end of June. Their case will resume on 24 October before an ordinary court.
The thirteen released yesterday were part of the group of 20 accused of felonies. Another six were released on bail between June and August and one is being tried in absentia.
Their trial will continue before a military court despite reported assurances made by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in August that all trials related to the pro-reform protests would be held in civilian courts.
Yesterday's trial was attended by an Amnesty International observer, representatives of the French, British and US embassies and two Bahraini NGOs.
Amnesty International's observer said that during the seven-hour trial session the president of the court did not give the defence witnesses enough time to speak. He kept interrupting them and sometimes prevented them from giving evidence.
The judge announced that the verdict will be given during the next trial session on 26 September.
Amnesty international is concerned that this would mean the court is effectively rejecting a pending request made by lawyers that it listens to each defendant’s testimony about their arrest and treatment while in custody.
- Testimonies from Bahrain: A hospital under siege(Blog, 7 September 2011)
- Testimonies from Bahrain: Memories of a jailed activist’s wife(Blog, 6 September 2011)
- Bahrain: Health professionals to be tried by a military court in Bahrain: 6th update(Urgent action, 25 August 2011)
- Bahrain faces fresh torture claims over health workers’ trial(News, 7 June 2011)
- Bahrain: Health professionals held incommunicado(Urgent action, 26 April 2011)
Statement by the spokesperson of EU High Representative on the recent release on bail of medical staff in Bahrain
EUROPEAN UNION Brussels, 8 September 2011 A 351/11
Statement by the spokesperson of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on the recent release on bail of medical staff in Bahrain
The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, issued the following statement today:
"The High Representative welcomes the release on bail by the Bahraini authorities of the medical staff who had been detained in the wake of unrest this spring. The High Representative again urges the Bahraini authorities to conduct all trials of civilians in civilian courts, with due process and full rights to a fair and transparent trial, as promised by His Majesty King Hamad last month.
The High Representative also looks forward with great interest to the upcoming conclusions of the independent Commission of Inquiry on the events surrounding the unrest earlier this year”
HRF: Bahraini “Sham” Trials Condemned
September 8, 2011
Washington, DC – The military trial of 20 doctors and other medics who treated injured protestors during pro-democracy protests resumed this week, further undermining Bahrain’s claim to respect human rights. The remaining doctors who had been in detention – some for many months – were released, but the charges against them still remain. Some are in extremely poor health after 9 days on hunger strike and are need of immediate medical treatment. Despite assurances that these cases would be tried in civilian courts, the cases are slated to proceed in military court and verdicts are anticipated by Sept 29.
“Trying civilians in military courts that offer inadequate legal protections is a sham process,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “It exposes the Bahraini Government’s real intentions to crack down on peaceful activists. The United States Government should publicly condemn these trials and make clear that Bahrain’s decision to prosecute people for peacefully expressing their views will have consequences for the relationship between the United States and Bahrain.”
The Bahraini authorities announced on June 26 that they were transferring all cases from military courts to civilian courts. On August 18, government authorities made an about-face and announced that the doctors would be tried in a military court. Bahrain’s military court does not meet international standards for a fair trial.
Among those on trial is Roula Al-Saffar, the head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, who spent four months in detention before her release last year. She studied at Widener University in Pennsylvania and at the University of North Texas. She also worked for many years as a nurse at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
“In July, I spoke to several of the medics who have been detained, including Roula and others on trial today, “ said Dooley. “I heard credible, detailed and consistent stories from them of torture in detention. The United States should not be aligned with a regime that perpetuates such abuses.”
FIDH: Bahrain : Fears that National Safety Appeal Court proceedings violate international human rights standards
7 September 2011
On September 6, 2011 the 21 political leaders and human rights activists sentenced on June 22nd to harsh prison sentences appeared before the National Safety Appeal Court. At the close of this first and penultimate hearing, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expresses its utmost concern with regard to proceedings, which once again disregard fair trial guarantees, and reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of these activists, and for the end of the proceedings against them, due to the arbitrary nature of these charges and of the entire proceedings.
« According to the information received, this last hearing demonstrates that the Bahraini judiciary cares nothing for the international human rights obligations and commitments of the government of Bahrain. While the judge of the National Safety Appeal Court (NSAC) has rejected all requests of the defence lawyers and, among others, those pertaining to impartial investigation into reports of torture and ill-treatment made by several defendants, he tarnishes once more the credibility of the judiciary » stated Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH . FIDH is concerned that lawyers were given only one week to prepare and submit their appeal defense. Such a short notice comes in contradiction with the right to adequate time to prepare defense. In addition, the right to full access to the case file should be granted to the defendants lawyers. The publicity of debates has not been fully guaranteed, as visas have been denied by the Bahraini authorities to FIDH delegates who were given a mandate to monitor and assess the conformity of the trial with relevant international standards. The final verdict will be pronounced on September 28.
This hearing was the first in the appeal launched by 21 political leaders and human rights activists who were given harsh sentences (including life imprisonment) on June 22, 2011. They have been brought to trial before an exceptional court, the National Safety Court of First Instance (NSC), under charges of ”organising and managing a terrorist organisation”, “attempt to overthrow the government by force and in liaison with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country,” and the “collection of money for a terrorist group” . FIDH and other international human rights organisations have repeatedly denounced what they consider to be politically motivated charges. Moreover, violations of fair trial guarantees have been documented throughout the proceedings before the NSC, which was established to try people accused of crimes committed under the state of emergency.
“In addition to failing to guarantee the most basics of fair trial, the Judiciary dodges today the issue of deciding on the legality and even constitutionality of the Royal Decree (decree no. “28” 2011), which has reversed a previous decision and allows again the prosecution of these defendants before an exceptional court.” added Souhayr Belhassen.
Consequent to the lifting of the State of Emergency on July 1, the King of Bahrain issued a Royal Order that stated that all cases tried before the NSC would be transferred to ordinary courts, putting an end to prosecuting civilians before exceptional courts, a practice which contravenes international standards. However, this decision has been reversed with the adoption of Decree no. “28” 2011. According to this, it has been announced that several cases, including the present case, will be retransferred before the National Safety Courts. The defendants’ lawyers in this case, as well as those in charge of the defence of 20 medics also arbitrary prosecuted as it seems that charges against them mainly aimed at sanctioning them for exercing their professional duty or expressing opinion  have challenged the constitutionality of this decree. While the judge of the NSAC has rejected today the request of the lawyers on this issue, the judge of the NSC should determine on it on September 7, after he decided on August 28 to adjourn the hearing as a consequence of a memorandum presented by the defendants’ lawyers on the unconstitutionality of Decree 28.
 See Urgent appeal of the Observatory for the protection of Human Rights defenders, Ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against Abdulhadi Al-Khawaj, June 29, 2011 fidh.org/Ongoing-arbi..  See FIDH-OMCT press release, « BAHRAIN-Heavy-sentences-for-human-rights-and dissenting activities », June 22, 2011  Most of them are charged, among others, with possession of unlicensed weapons, attempt to forcefully occupy a public hospital, spreading of false information etc
RSF: Companies That Cooperate With Dictatorships Must Be Sanctioned
2 SEPTEMBER 2011
Reporters Without Borders condemns the criminal cooperation that exists between many western companies, especially those operating in the new technology area, and authoritarian regimes.
“These companies no longer have any reservations about collaborating with criminal governments,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “Providing dictatorships with communication equipment or confidential data is irresponsible. A total of 122 bloggers and netizens are currently detained worldwide. The companies that work with these governments are complicit and responsible for the fate of these detainees. Financial sanctions should be imposed on companies collaborating with governments that jail bloggers or censor the Internet.
“Without financial sanctions, these practices will not stop. Companies are not above the law. There are courts that try illicit practices by companies. Why shouldn’t they try the criminal responsibility of companies that collaborate with regimes that are guilty of crimes? Provision should be made at the national level for penalizing such collaboration, and referral to the International Criminal Court should be considered when companies become the accomplices to war crime by dictators. After being concerned about impunity for dictators, the world should now be worrying about impunity for companies.
“Human lives are at stake. Must they be sacrificed for the sake of profits? The leaders of international companies operating in the new technology domain, especially telecommunications surveillance, in Libya, Syria, Burma, China, Turkmenistan and other authoritarian counties should think about their responsibility. Their tools, their equipment and their know-how are being used for criminal purposes.”
These technologies are at the heart of a new war. Emails can now be intercepted, Skype calls can be recorded, webcams can be turned on remotely and Internet content can be modified without the users knowing. Reporters Without Borders urges Internet users to be much more careful.
Reporters Without Borders reiterates the need for legislation banning cooperation between companies and dictatorships on the lines of the proposed Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA) in the United States and its European equivalent. Like the EU regulations on trade in products that could be used for “capital punishment, torture or other cruel treatment,” there is now a need to introduce international regulations on the provision of technology that threaten cyber-citizens, to control the export of certain technologies, to create a monitoring body that is independent of governments and to have dissuasive sanctions ready. Companies should also have legal and official recourse against measures in countries like China or Iran that force them to obstruct the free flow of information.
The GOFA, a bill submitted to the US Congress in 2006 and still awaiting adoption, aims to prevent US companies from “cooperating with repressive governments in transforming the Internet into a tool of censorship and surveillance.” The European equivalent, submitted to the European Parliament on 17 July 2008 by Dutch MEP Jules Maaten of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), aims to forestall online censorship possibilities and to regulate the potentially repressive activities of European Internet companies. It would create an Office of Global Internet Freedom with the job of combating online censorship by the most repressive governments and protecting the personal data of Internet users.
These measures are now urgent and necessary. Examples of companies cooperating with such governments are on the increase. Referring in May to Microsoft’s acquisition of the Internet telephony company Skype, Microsoft Russia president Nikolay Pryanishnikov said he was ready to provide its source code to the Russian security services. Microsoft is nonetheless a leading member of the Global Network Initiative, an alliance that brings private-sector companies and investment funds together with organizations that defend freedoms.
Many other companies that have shown no interest in the GNI’s principles seem ready to stop at nothing to conquer new markets. Bull, Nokia, BlueCoat, Netfirms and Cisco have all yielded to the lure of profits. Reporters Without Borders has compiled the following summary of their repressive practices.
Bahrain and Nokia Siemens Network (Finland)
Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) has been accused of providing the monitoring technology that the Bahraini authorities have been using to spy on the emails, mobile phone conversations and text message of dozens of human rights activists. Abdul Al-Khanjar, an activist who was detained from August 2010 to February 2011, said the security officials who interrogated him revealed that they had the records of the messages he had sent from his phone. Speaking on condition of anonymity, several Nokia employees confirmed that this technology had been provided to Bahrain. Ahmed Al-Doseri, director of information and communications at Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, confirmed that Bahrain was using this kind of sophisticated monitoring technology. There may be a European Union investigation into these allegations.
Nokia spokesman Ben Roome said: “We are very aware that communications technology can be used for good and ill.” Reporters Without Borders regrets that this awareness is not reflected in the company’s commercial decisions. Nokia and Siemens already provided Iran with software necessary for telecommunications surveillance in 2009. Nokia confirmed that it had sold DPI-based technology to Iran.
Huffington Post: Democratic Opening in Bahrain Needs Release of All Prisoners of Conscience
Left to right: Dr.Abduljalil AlSingace and Ali Abdulemam , 2 bloggers sentenced to life and 15 years imprisonment in Bahrain.
by: Jean-François Julliard - Secretary general, Reporters Without Borders
6 Sep 2011
That Bahrain released 137 people on August 9th is good news, but it also shows the scale of arrests, done in full view with little criticism. Five weeks ago, President Barack Obama hailed the launch of a national dialogue by the Bahraini government as an "important moment of promise for the people of Bahrain." The government lifted the state of emergency on June 1st and started the national dialogue a month later, but continued to arbitrarily hound bloggers, the media and journalists. Clearly the regime is saying one thing, but doing another.
Earlier in the year, President Obama pointed out that "mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain's citizens" and recalled the necessary constitutional separation of powers -- particularly between the executive and judicial. Reporters Without Borders urges the United States to renew its pressure on Bahrain, a leading U.S. ally in the Gulf, and to secure the support of Saudi Arabia, whose has strong influence over Bahrain. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia must work together to pressure the Bahraini authorities to cease violating their citizens' rights to free expression and assembly by arbitrary arrest and prosecution, to release prisoners of conscience, and to continue the national dialogue in good faith.
On June 22nd, a military court imposed long jail sentences on 21 activists and civilians supposedly on charges of belonging to terrorist organizations and trying to overthrow the government. These actions violate international human rights standards. But this is not the sole irregularity observed in the trial. According to some of the defendants and their families, the suspects were tortured or mistreated while in detention.
Eight of them, including the human rights activist and blogger Abduljalil Al-Singace, were given life sentences. The head of the pro-democracy and civil liberties movement Al Haq, Singace has been in jail since March 16th, for allegedly trying to destabilize the government because he used his blog to denounce the deplorable state of civil liberties and discrimination against Bahrain's Shiite population. He had been arrested several times since 2009 for the same reasons.
The other 13 suspects got sentences ranging from two to 15 years in prison. The blogger Ali Abdulemam, tried in absentia, got 15 years. 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 arrested in 2005 for criticizing the regime in his blog and was detained again from September to February 2011, but he avoided re-arrest and has been in hiding for several months.
And of course, none of them were amongst these 137 released prisoners.
There are limits to the regime's leniency. Two royal decrees signed on June 29th were an attempt to silence international criticism. The first makes it possible for civilians to be tried in civilian court instead of the martial ones when they are accused of destabilizing the government. It also makes it possible for them to appeal to the highest civilian appeal court to fight against the rulings of the national security appeal court. The other, Decree No. 28, created a commission of enquiry into the incidents that took place in the kingdom during February and March.
These were obviously positive measures but they should have been retroactive and they should have applied to Singace and Abdulemam and all the media personnel who were convicted prior to the decree. The authorities will have to quickly demonstrate that this is not a smokescreen and there is a real will to reconcile the nation. And as President Obama pointed out in a May 19th speech on Bahrain: "you can't have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail."
Encouraging this dialogue was actually the grounds for the release of now more than 200 people since February but none of them have been acquitted, in the absence of an official order from the king. They include Hamza Ahmed Youssef Al-Dairi and his son, Ahmed Youssef Al-Dairi (the administrators of an online forum, who were arrested on April 1st and released on July 4th), the blogger Ali Omid and two photographers, Hossein Abbas Salem and Mohamed Ali Al-Aradi.
But these releases fail to disguise the censorship methods employed in the kingdom. Even before last spring's developments, Bahrain was on the list of "Countries Under Surveillance" in the Reporters Without Borders annual survey of "Enemies of the Internet," because the government uses a strict system that filters content of a political or religious nature, content regarded as obscene and content that is deemed to insult the royal family. Since June 9th, the security forces have controlled the Facebook and Twitter pages of Rasad News -- an important source of information about human rights violations in Bahrain -- using them to put out reports critical of the demonstrators. PalTalk, an online voice and video chat service that allows communication between different networks, has reportedly been blocked since the start of June. And a new news website critical of the government, BahrainMirror, has been inaccessible since June 5th.
The international community must press Bahrain to drop all charges still pending against prisoners of conscience and to quash the sentences of those that have been convicted, including the bloggers Ali Abdulemam and Abduljalil Al-Singace. Despite the initial reforms and the few releases, Bahrain continues to violate freedom of the media and information and the international community's reactions are still timid or non-existent.
The international community must not put oil and financial interests before justice and fundamental rights. It must not turn a blind eye to the fate of activists in Bahrain or let itself be won over by theories of an Iranian conspiracy or government talk of possible religious conflict. Human rights and dignity cannot be defended solely in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. Bahrain's human rights activists have every right to be regarded as part of the Arab Spring movement as well.
Release of doctors with continuation of trial, postponement of appeal of 21 prominent figures
08 Sep 2011
In good news, the military court yesterday (07 Sep 2011) decided to release the remaining medical staff in detention who were on their 9th day of hunger strike. There is still concern for them as the charges have not been dropped, and the reading of the verdict was set for the 29th of September. This means they are still at high risk of being re-arrested at any time. The release comes after doctors in Ireland, the UK, USA and France announced they were to join 24 hour solidarity fast for the doctors, and hundreds in Bahrain joined the hunger strike in solidarity with the doctors including Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and AbdulJalil AlSingace.
Names of the released doctors: 1- Dr.Ali Al Ekri 2- Dr.Nader Al Dewani 3- Dr.Mahmood Asghar 4- Dr.Ebrahim Al Demestani 5- Dr.Ghassan Dhaif 6- Dr.Basim Dhaif 7- Dr.Sayed Marhoon 8- Dr.Moh'd Al Shehab 9- Dr.Abdulkhaliq Al Oraibi 10- Dr.Hasan Al Tublani 11- Dr.Ahmed Omran
The appeal of the 21 prominent figures yesterday was postponed until the 28th of September. The lawyer requested during the hearing that the detainees be allowed to address the court about being subjected to torture, but the request was denied. Alkhawaja's lawyer said that he was very concerned about the well being of his client as he appeared to be in poor health and was very thing and pale.
There remains to be a large number of detainees on hunger strike (more than 100) in the Dry docks prison and the Jaw prison. There is great concern about their health.
A few days ago Mohammed AlHaiki, a sacked employee, decided to run into the Pearl square carrying the Bahrain flag. As shown on this video he was chased then beaten by security forces (they appear to be from the army as per their uniform), then arrested. The latest we received was that he was in the hospital due to the severe beating, and is now being charged with assaulting a police officer. Today another man, Mohammed Jaffar decided to do the same thing, and we received news that he was also beaten and arrested. There is no news about him yet. People are now talking about planning on doing the same thing but in much bigger groups, some even calling for thousands to go into Pearl square on the 23rd of September. In another act of personal defiance a man decided to run in front of the riot police jeeps to prevent them from entering the village of Sitrah during protests.
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry has announced that and international expert on hunger strike has joined the team.
The majority of areas in Bahrain are still witnessing protests on a nightly basis, and we receive reports about injuries on a nightly basis. A 9 year old boy was hit with a stun grenade in the head, and we are still waiting to hear about his health condition. Last night 7 youth were beaten severely in Barbar then arrested. At least one of them was 12 years old. Another young boy was hit by one of the riot police jeeps then arrested.
- PHR Renews Call for Open and Fair Trials in Bahrain
- Amnesty International: Appeal For Action: 20 Health Professionals To Be Tried By A Military Court In Bahrain
- Updates: Jailed Bahrain doctors on hunger strike
- HRW: Bahrain: Systematic Attacks on Medical Providers
AFP: 101 Bahrain prisoners on hunger strike: commission
07 Sep 2011
MANAMA — More than one hundred prisoners are hunger strike in Bahrain after being jailed following a government crackdown on Shiite-led protests in February, an independent commission said Wednesday.
The Bahrain Commission of Inquiry said in an emailed statement that 84 inmates, including doctors and nurses who treated protesters and opposition figures, are on hunger strike in prison.
Seventeen others have been hospitalised by the ministry of interior due to their refusal to eat and their deteriorating health condition.
Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab told AFP this week that more than 200 Shiites jailed for their role in the month-long anti-government protests had joined the protest.
Rajab said the action was started last week by 12 of the 47 doctors from Manama's Salmaniya hospital who were arrested during the crackdown on the Shiite-led protests.
The government has accused them of inciting the overthrow of the ruling Al-Khalifa family.
According to the statement, the commission has invited an international experts on hunger strikes to evaluate the health and well-being of the prisoners.
One expert, Dr. Sondra Crosby, was to be granted permission to visit all 101 prisoners to provide advice and counselling to the participants on the challenges of a hunger strike.
The commission, which has been charged with investigating the crackdown on protesters and opposition figures, is to release its findings in a report on October 30.
The commission says the entire report will be made public. Twenty-four people died during the repression of popular protests between mid-February and mid-March, according to official figures from Manama. Four protesters have since died in custody.
RSF: Detained Blogger Abduljalil Al-Singace On Hunger Strike
6 SEPTEMBER 2011
Several detainees in Gurayn military prison, including the blogger Adbuljalil Al-Singace, have begun a hunger strike and have issued a joint letter denouncing their imprisonment and the frequency of arbitrary detention and unfair trials in Bahrain.
Singace, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court on 22 June, is suffering from various ailments affecting his mobility. Reporters Without Borders is very worried about his physical condition and urges the authorities to free him and all the other prisoners of conscience.
The Bahraini authorities lifted a state of emergency in 1 June and began a national dialogue on 1 July. They also announced that cases of civilians pended trial by court martial would transferred to civilian courts. But the convictions of civilians already handed down by military courts were never reviewed.
Bahrain was ranked 144th out of 178 countries in the press freedom index that Reporters Without Borders published in October 2010. It was also included in the “countries under surveillance” in the latest Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet.”
One blogger sentenced to life imprisonment, another to 15 years in jail
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.
Amnesty LiveWire: Testimonies from Bahrain: Memories of a jailed activist’s wife
6 September 2011
By Khadija al-Mousawi, wife of imprisoned human rights defender ‘Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.
It was on a Friday when we gathered in my daughter Fatima’s flat as a family – eating together, talking about politics and human rights or joking and laughing.
Suddenly we heard a very loud noise. In a matter of seconds the flat door was broken in and burly, masked men burst into the room. I cannot explain how I felt at that moment, because no word in the dictionary, or in any language, can explain it.
My husband had always said “whenever they come to take me, please do not interfere and I will just go with them”. But he was not allowed to go peacefully. One of them grabbed him by the neck and then pulled him down the stairs by his legs. He was brutally beaten – punched and kicked in front of me and my daughters. When my eldest daughter interfered, they responded with insults and tried to arrest her too. I was torn between begging them not to take her and looking at my husband on the stairs where they were still kicking him and praying that he was ok. As if that was not enough, I suddenly noticed three masked men holding my three sons-in-law by their necks and taking them downstairs. At that point I was furious, sad and helpless.
My husband was gone, but I could not show how sad I felt because my daughters were suffering after watching the arrest of their husbands and father.
From that night on, our lifestyle changed. We would stay up all night, just in case the masked men decided to come back, and sleep after sunrise. We always slept fully clothed, just in case. Every sound made me jump and check the apartment was safe.
Days went by and we were waiting for news – any news. We asked a lawyer to try to get any information about their condition or whereabouts. He told us that that would be fruitless since lawyers weren’t being told anything about detainees. I was praying to God, “Please just keep them alive!” – because after seeing how ‘Abdulhadi was beaten, I was not sure that he had survived. My daughter decided to go on hunger strike. She was getting weaker and weaker every day.
Al-Khawaja's family call for his release in Bahrain © AP GraphicsBank Weeks after the arrest, my husband called. He could barely speak and the call lasted seconds. He said that the oppression was great but his spirits were still high. All I could think at that point was: “At least now I know he is alive!” I only learned about the extent of my husband’s injuries and his subsequent operation by watching the news. That day I wished I was dead.
I was very scared and worried about what I would see when I met him again. Then the trial started and I saw him. His face was different but his soul was unchanged. His head was held high, his eyes were sharp, and he was proud as ever. I was so happy to see his soul. Yes, as strange as that sounds, I can see my husband’s soul.
I have lived with ‘Abdulhadi for 30 years; 30 great years. He is my husband, my best friend, my soul-mate and my everything. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment and I hope that the pressure will be so great on the government that they will be forced to set him free. Until then, I am lucky to have so many good memories with this kind, wise, respectful, truthful and lovely husband of mine. I can go on forever re-living those memories while waiting for him.
I find myself amused by the fact that, although I am 52 years old, I usually can’t sleep on the nights of our visits. I usually spend the whole night thinking of what I will tell him the following day. During these visits he helps me look on the bright side of life. We talk about all our happy memories together and usually end up laughing about some joke or another.
I love my husband and I am so proud of him, both as a man and a human rights defender.