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Blogger and activist Zainab Al-Khawaja detained

(BCHR/IFEX) - 14 February, 2012 - A 28 year old Bahraini blogger and activist, Zainab Al-Khawaja (@angryarabiya) was arrested on 12 February 2012, while marching peacefully towards the Pearl Roundabout in Manama. It is the second time that she has been arrested by the security forces in Bahrain in the last two months. Reports confirmed that Zainab Al-Khawaja has been questioned by the Public Prosecution Office and charged with "illegal gathering of more than five people". She will be kept in police custody for 7 days pending investigation.

The march to the now-demolished roundabout - a symbol of freedom and the epicenter of last year's popular protests - was organized by Nabeel Rajab, head of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), who walked along with his wife and two children, and two other activists. As they approached the Pearl Roundabout they were shot at by the Riot Police with stun grenades and tear gas. Al-Khawaja continued her way to the barbed wires surrounding the Pearl Roundabout where she was arrested.

The arrest and 7-day detention of Al-Khawaja coincides with the intended demonstrations that will mark the first anniversary of the peaceful protests on 14 February. Al-Khawaja is a prominent blogger on Twitter under the name @angryarabiya with over 33,500 followers. She has been actively reporting on the current events in Bahrain, latest news on the protests and arrests, and, in the mean time, encouraging people to demand their human and civil rights.

Al-Khawaja is already scheduled to stand trial on 27 February 2012, on charges of illegal gathering, assaulting a police officer and inciting hatred against the regime. The charges stem from her arrest during a protest on 15 December 2011, and subsequent five-day detention, during which she was beaten and ill-treated.

The GCHR and BCHR believe that Al-Khawaja's arrest is directly linked to both her work in the defence of human rights and democracy in Bahrain and her online activities in reporting the news and events at a time when the government is pursuing a media blackout policy. We see this as part of an ongoing trend of harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain. GCHR and BCHR are very concerned about Al-Khawaja's physical and psychological wellbeing.

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