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BCHR fears for its president's safety following king's condemnation of outspoken human rights activists

(BCHR/IFEX) - In a public speech, Hamad Bin Issa Alkhalifa, the King of Bahrain, indirectly warned Bahrainis against criticizing the kingdom, and against reporting on human rights abuses internationally, characterizing such efforts as serving the agenda of foreign powers seeking to re-colonize the county.

Speaking to a gathering of local newspaper editors at Al Safriya Palace, the king warned all Bahraini social organizations, associations or individuals against forming any "external allegiances".

"We will never be a vassal state, accepting foreign agendas . . . Those loyal to foreign agendas will be exposed, sooner or later," he warned, stressing the need to "learn from past mistakes". He rejected "maneuvers by foreign countries to impose their agendas on Bahrain," according to a report in the "Gulf Daily News".

"We have long experience with the colonizing powers, of which we have had enough, but there are still some efforts being made to bring Bahrain back to its previous subservient state", the king added, according to "Al-Waqt" daily newspaper. The king further elaborated: "The source of spreading doubts are those whom we pardoned and accepted back into this country from exile . . .We hear clearly, on a daily basis, false cries for help directed to the West. I say to these who utter these cries: Have you not seen Abu Ghraib prison (in Iraq)? Who administers that prison? Do you think those people give you any priority in their agenda?"

Based on these reported statements by the king, the BCHR is concerned for the safety of its president, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who could be the target of the king's threats. Alkhawaja was among many Bahrainis who were pardoned while in exile and allowed to return in 2001; he is one of the few of those who are now engaged in reporting human rights violations to different international forums.

In July 2008, Alkhawaja delivered an oral statement in Geneva at the meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council. In that statement, he addressed violations of civil and political rights in Bahrain, noting the overwhelming influence of the king and members of his family in political and economic life. As well, in recent years, the BCHR has organized a campaign in the United States, Brussels and the United Kingdom for the promotion of human rights in Bahrain; BCHR has also participated actively in Geneva in many of the United Nations mechanisms in relation to the implementation of International human rights conventions and the Universal Periodic Review.

The BCHR considers such warnings and threats against human rights activists to be part of an intimidation campaign that has escalated since December 2007. As part of this campaign, scores of activists have been subjected to arbitrary detention, systematic torture, unfair trials and prolonged prison sentences.

The BCHR calls on the Bahrain authorities to put an end to its policy of targeting human rights defenders, accusing them of instigating hatred or committing violence and portraying them as traitors or collaborators with western countries.

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