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Bahraini protest violently disrupted, rights defender arrested

Human rights activist Said Yousif was arrested on 17 December while monitoring demonstrations in Manama.
Human rights activist Said Yousif was arrested on 17 December while monitoring demonstrations in Manama.

M. Alshaikh/BCHR

UPDATE: Human Rights Defender Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah has been released and will apear in court tomorrow. His next court appearance is on 4 March 2013. (BCHR, 28 January 2013)

(BCHR/IFEX) - 18 December 2012 - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses grave concern in regards to the Bahraini security forces' excessive use of force, the arbitrary arrests of peaceful pro-democracy protestors and the continuous harassment of human rights activists.

The February 14 Coalition called for a mass protest in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, on 17 December 2012 which has been marked by the people since 1994 as “Bahrain's Martyrs' Day” following the extra-judicial killing of two Bahrainis during the 1990 uprising. As a reaction, Bahrain authorities closed off most streets leading to Manama, preventing Bahrainis from entering in an attempt to prevent a large number of participants in the protest.

Despite the lock-down, protests took place in Manama and were attacked with excessive use of force by the security forces resulting in the arbitrary arrest of 27 peaceful protestors (three women and 25 men.)

Amongst those arrested is BCHR's Acting Vice President and Head of Documentation Unit Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah, who attended the protest to monitor and document the situation. BCHR believes that the arrest of Al-Muhafdah is part of an ongoing systematic targeting, harassment and detention of human rights defenders in Bahrain, and in particular those associated with BCHR. After the arrest and severe torture of co-founder Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and the sentencing of BCHR's President Nabeel Rajab to two years in prison on charges of illegal protesting, Al-Muhafdah has now been arrested again after being released last month. He will be held until presented to public prosecution. He was charged with broadcasting "false information through Twitter."

Despite King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa's claims that Bahrain will always be the nation of tolerance and liberties in his speech on 16 December, (the day he celebrates his ascension to the throne), excessive force and arrests continue to be methods used to quell peaceful protests.

BCHR strongly condemns the continuous crackdown on civilians who choose to exercise their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The center also calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN and all other allies and international institutions to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:

1. Stop its use of excessive force in response to continued peaceful protests, and to consider a meaningful solution to resolve the persistent political issues of instability in the country.
2. Immediately release detained human rights defender Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah and drop all charges against him.
3. Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and activists including leading human rights defenders Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja.
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