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Activist's sentence upheld; others await trial

(ANHRI/IFEX) – 1 February 2012 – Today, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounced the Bahraini authorities for restricting freedom of expression and media freedoms. In its session on 30 January, the Bahraini Cassation Court upheld the ruling of the military court in the case of activist Fadeelah Mubarak, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for participating in peaceful protests and listening to anti-regime songs. In addition, media professional Waheed Alballoushy is also on trial today in the lower criminal court. Female journalist Reem Khalifa will stand trial tomorrow, 2 February.

On 20 March 2011, Ms. Mubarak was arrested in the Alrefa' region southwest of the Bahraini capital of Manama. She was in her car listening to songs calling for change when she was stopped by security men, forced to turn off the recorder and then beaten. She was subjected to the exceptional national safety court under charges of “listening to revolutionary songs” and “participating in peaceful protests”. On 17 May 2011, the court sentenced her to four years in prison. Ms. Mubarak challenged the ruling before the Military Court of Appeal, which on 8 June reduced her sentence to 18 months. When the state of emergency was repealed, Ms. Mubarak's defense team challenged the appeal court's ruling before the Court of Cassation, and on 30 January, the latter upheld Ms. Mubarak's 18-month sentence.

Balloushy, a media professional and internet activist, was summoned by the public prosecution on 2 January for questioning about a complaint submitted by Alasala Alislamia Association (a Salafist organization), in which the association charges Balloushy with insulting an Islamic symbol in his writings critical of the association.

Reem Khalifa, a journalist at "AlWasat" newspaper, was attacked, beaten and insulted by a group of pro-government supporters. The incident occurred while she was leaving the Ramad hotel after attending a press conference organized by an Irish delegation on the issue of the Bahraini medical delegation arrested in February 2011. The pro-government group attacked and insulted Ms. Khalifa. The journalist later filed a lawsuit charging them with “assault and insult.” However, Ms. Khalifa was shocked when her assailants, instead of being brought in for questioning, charged her instead with libel, slander and physical assault. The Lower Criminal Court will hear her case on 2 February 2012.

Meanwhile, Bahrain's Appeals Court decided today to adjourn the case of activist Naser Alras. A new session has been set for 16 February. Naser, a Canadian citizen, is one of 13 people who were arrested last year for participating in the peaceful demonstrations, and was sent to trial on charges of assembling. The 1st instance court had sentenced them to periods ranging from two to five years' imprisonment on charges of “participating in illegal assemblies and riots” and “inciting against authorities”. When the activists appealed the sentence, the court of appeal acquitted 12 of them, while Alras was sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

“Since the commencement of the Bahraini uprising in February 2011, the government has been curbing freedom of expression and the opposition. Ending the emergency state did not change a thing. Instead of putting dissenters on trial in military courts, the authorities now try them in criminal courts, just to put more restraints on freedom of expression and gag dissenters with unfair trails,” stated ANHRI.

ANHRI calls on the international community, Arab society and defenders of freedom worldwide to break the wall of silence built around the crimes committed against the Bahraini people during their revolution and take immediate action to exert pressure on the authorities to end the unjust trials against activists, journalists and media professionals.

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