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Bahraini rights defender arrested for documenting security violations

BCHR's Said Yousif Al-Muhafdhah before his arrest on 2 November 2012 in Bahrain
BCHR's Said Yousif Al-Muhafdhah before his arrest on 2 November 2012 in Bahrain


UPDATE: After having extended Said Yousif Al-Muhafdhah's confinement for another week, the Bahraini human rights defender was released. He was jailed for 12 days. (RSF, 14 November 2012)

(BCHR/IFEX) - 3 November 2012 - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) expressed grave concern over the systematic targeting, harassment and detention of human rights defenders in Bahrain, and in particular BCHR's members. After the arrest and severe torture of BCHR co-founder Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and the sentencing of President Nabeel Rajab to three years in prison on charges of illegal protesting, the Bahraini authorities detained the acting vice president and the head of the documentation unit at BCHR, Said Yousif Al-Muhafdhah, on 2 November 2012.

Having arrived in Duraz to document an injury that took place at a protest that had been already cracked down upon with excessive force, Al-Muhafdhah was arrested by security forces before he could look into the details. The injured man was shot while standing at his front door observing the protests.

Al-Muhafdhah was interrogated at the police station regarding his presence in front of the injured man's house. He was then led to believe by a police officer that he would be released within a few hours, but when colleague Zainab Al-Khawaja went to pick him up from the Budaiya police station she was told by an officer: “Why have you come for him? I haven't decided what I want to do to him yet."

Al-Muhafdhah's lawyer, Mohammed AbdulAmeer, then stated that Al-Muhafdhah was to be held overnight and taken to the Public Prosecution on 3 November. After making Al-Muhafdhah wait for approximately five hours, the prosecution decided to extend his detention for seven more days on the charge of illegal protesting in Duraz.

The arrest of BCHR's acting vice president comes only three days after the Center released a report holding the King of Bahrain responsible for the culture of impunity in the country. Al-Muhafdhah had expressed to colleagues that he predicted he would be arrested as he is the only [publicly] known person working for BCHR inside Bahrain.

Al-Muhafdhah's arrest also comes only one month after his participation at the United Nations Human Rights Council, where he had highlighted the human rights situation in Bahrain during meetings and side events. The above-mentioned rights groups consider his case a reprisal due to his human rights activities and his participation at the Human Rights Council.

The BCHR, GCHR and BYSHR call on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN and all other close allies and international institutions to put pressure on the Bahraini authorities to:

1. Immediately release detained human rights defender Said Yousif Al-Muhafdhah and drop all charges against him. BCHR believes that these measures have been taken against him solely due to his legitimate and peaceful work in the defense of human rights, and freedom of expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

2. Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and activists including leading human rights defenders Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab.

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

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