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Activists imprisoned for writing slogans and posting portraits to commemorate torture victims

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has learned that three young men aged 19 and 20 were summoned on 8 January 2009 to renew their detention for an extra 15 days on charges of writing graffiti and sticking posters on the walls of the Ras Rumman area in the capital, Manama.

The three young men were detained at on 16 December 2008, while they were busy writing slogans and pasting pictures and posters in memory of victims of torture who were killed in Bahrain in past years. The Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture (CMVT) organises annual activities, focused on 17 December, Martyrs Day, to commemorate those who died as well as those still suffering as a result of torture in Bahrain, and to seek reparation and redress. Close to this event and during unrest, it is customary to see graffiti and portraits of martyrs on the walls of villages and cities in Bahrain. The authorities usually send a security-backed group to scratch out and wipe clean the graffiti and slogans after a short period of display.

BCHR President Nabeel Rajab stated, "Graffiti is one way of expressing views and is an area which is also coming under censorship, as evident from this incident". He continued, "It is sad that those young men are being punished and apprehended for trying to find a peaceful way of expressing themselves". Rajab added, "I urge the authorities to widen its tolerance for practices of freedom of expression and without any reprisals to release those young men".

BCHR expresses its concern over the fierce grip over all forms of freedom of expression, and considers this act a signal of deterioration to this as well as other rights. BCHR is alarmed by the fact that laws are devised and used in Bahrain to introduce more restraints and constraints on all forms of freedom of expression and protest.

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