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Special Forces prevent scholar Abdulhadi Al-Mokhouder from speaking at mosque

(BCHR/IFEX) - BCHR is concerned to learn that heavily armed members of the Special Forces (SF) were deployed on 13 February 2009 to besiege the Al-Sadeq mosque in Manama in order to prevent Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Mokhouder, a young scholar and reformist, from leading Friday evening prayers and delivering a speech to the public. The SF, composed of non-Bahrainis, prevented the caretaker from opening the mosque and blocked the car park to any visitor intending to pray in the Shia mosque.

Al-Mokhouder took over the Friday evening prayers followed by a public speech after the 26 January detention of Hasan Mushaima, who was the known "Imam" of the Al-Sadeq mosque at the time. Local newspapers subsequently posted news of instructions by Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs and a member of the ruling family, restricting Friday evening activities at the Al-Sadeq mosque to praying led by whomever were to replace Mushaima, effectively banning any speeches.

On 12 February, Al-Mokhouder was approached by the head of the Ja'afari (Shia) Endowment, dubbed Waqf, asking him to come over the department. Once he realized that the intention was to stop him from leading the prayer and delivering a speech, he informed the Waqf department that he intended to attend the mosque and preach. He noted that he was approached and nominated by the individuals who attend the Al-Sadeq mosque and that he will abide and respect their wish.

Al-Mokhouder is a young reformist who is well known for taking a lead role in many public activities, the latest of which is a popular petition calling for the resignation of the only Bahraini Prime Minister since 1970, Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa. Al-Mokhouder joined other scholars and local figures in actions calling for the release of all political detainees and human rights defenders, the most recent of which was a hunger strike and house sit-in launched on 13 February.

The BCHR considers the authorities' action in preventing Al-Mokhouder from addressing the public to be a blatant violation of freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Bahrain on 20 September 2006.

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