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Protests escalate in Bahrain's capital, 43 arrested

Anti-regime protesters were arrested in Manama while peacefully demonstrating on 25 January 2013
Anti-regime protesters were arrested in Manama while peacefully demonstrating on 25 January 2013


(BCHR/IFEX) - 27 January 2013 - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses grave concern over the continued use of excessive force to restrict and attack freedom of expression and assembly in Bahrain despite announced plans by the regime for political dialogue.

On 25 January 2013, hundreds of Bahrainis took to the streets in the capital city of Manama and peacefully protested demanding their rights, including the right to self-determination. The Ministry of Interior set up security checkpoints and road blocks on streets leading to the capital to restrict access.

Despite these restrictions, people managed to get into Manama, and upon arrival, were violently attacked by a large number of security forces with tear gas and stun grenades, which also impacted people passing by and the shop keepers in the old market. Tear gas was shot from close distance at people in the narrow allies of Manama, which were crowded with protesters and shoppers.

The Ministry of Interior called the protest “illegal” in a statement, criminalizing freedom of assembly, at a time when Bahraini law only requires a notification rather than authorization for rallies.

Members of BCHR have recorded at least two cases of injuries as a result of stun grenades: one male victim who was shot in the leg, and one female victim who was shot in the shoulder.

A policeman was caught on video slapping Abdulla Alsaba'a, a Bahraini citizen and a member of a political opposition society in Bahrain, before he arrested him.

Reporters of international media outlets covering the protest were not saved from assaults and harassments. Mazen Mahdi, EPA photojournalist reported that he was hit by a police sound grenade, thrown blindly into the crowd, and sustained a minor injury. He was also stopped twice for an ID check in Manama by the same security unit in what appeared to be an attempt to hamper his work.

Mass arrests were conducted by riot police accompanied by dogs. According to Reem Khalaf, a lawyer who was present at AlHoora police station, 43 people were arrested including a Saudi man and an injured man. All of them were held overnight. Fifteen detainees were interrogated at the public prosecution on Saturday, and the rest were interrogated on Sunday. They all received a 45 day detention order pending investigation on charges of “illegal gathering”, “participating in an unauthorized demonstration” and "disobeying the authorities when asked to disperse".

Among the detainees is a blogger and activist Nader Abdulemam (@NaderAbdulEmam) who was threatened with arrest via Twitter a few days prior to the protest from a pro-government anonymous user. In addition to the above-mentioned charges, Abdulemam is also accused with incitement to participate in unauthorized march.

Faisal Mushaima was arrested and taken to the Bahrain-Gateway (Bab AlBahrain) police station. When his brother, Abdulhadi Mushaima, an elderly man and the father of Ali Mushaima, the first victim of extra judicial killing by police on Feb 14, 2011, went to check on him, he was also arrested and told that he is “wanted” by the police. He was kept in detention for several hours then moved to the clinic at the Ministry of Interior as he suffered from a high level of diabetes. He was later released due to his health deterioration.

A member of the Bahrain Society for Human Rights, Hussain Radhi, was arrested while he was monitoring the protests and documenting human rights violations.

A member of the Islamic Scholars Council, cleric Fadhil AlZaki was also arrested.

When human rights activists and relatives of the detainees gathered outside the AlHoora police station to get updates about the detainees, they were threatened by police with the use of force and arrest if they did not disperse and leave.

BCHR finds these developments conflicting with the recent calls for dialogue announced by the head of state Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, as the attacks continue against the basic rights to freedom of assembly and expression, through the use of force and the criminalisation of these freedoms.

BCHR also notes that basic rights and freedoms are not and should not be negotiable in any dialogue, as they are guaranteed in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

BCHR calls on the international community and the governments of the US, UK and other close allies of Bahrain to put pressure on the government to take actions that reflect seriousness towards having an inclusive, comprehensive political dialogue, such as:

• Immediately releasing all political detainees who were detained for their exercise of freedom of expression and assembly, including the recent detainees in Manama.
• Stopping all kinds of restrictions and attacks on the exercise of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression guaranteed by international covenants on human rights.

The full list of detainees as gathered by activists (Arabic) can be seen here.

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