The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concern over the continued attacks on human rights defenders in Bahrain. Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafdha, BCHR's Acting Vice President and Head of Documentation Unit, was acquitted on 11 March 2013, however, the public prosecution appealed his acquittal. His ruling's hearing was postponed to 12 September 2013.
On 17 December 2012, Al-Muhafdhah was arrested in Manama while he was monitoring a protest and tweeting about the violations against protesters. The following day he was taken to the public prosecution for interrogation and was ordered to seven days in detention pending investigation. He was released a month later on 17 January 2013 on BD100 (US$265) bail.
He was charged with disseminating false news over Twitter. Following his arrest, the Deputy Attorney General stated that the public prosecution began investigating into the anti-cyber crime unit's report against Al-Muhafdha for disseminating false news about security forces attacking protesters on Monday (17 December 2012) in Manama Souq on his personal account on Twitter.
The court acquitted him on 11 March 2013 because of lack of evidence and that no link could be established between Al-Muhafdha's tweet, that has been claimed to have caused protests and riot, and the protests that took place in the area. Also, a witness confirmed that there were other accounts calling for protests in Manama on the given date. These contradict article 168 of the punishment law that states punishment for disseminating false news can only be implemented if it leads to harming public security.
The first appeal hearing was on 1 July 2013 but the hearing was postponed to 12 September 2013. It is possible that the next hearing will be the ruling hearing, and it could lead to an overturning of the initial verdict.
The Bahraini government has targeted many activists in an attempt to silence them and stop the reporting of human rights violations committed by security forces against peaceful protesters and civilians. Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, Zainab Al Khawaja and Naji Fateel are Bahraini human rights defenders and activists sentenced to prison for their human rights work.
BCHR calls 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:
- Drop all charges against all human rights defenders and put an end to sham trials;
- Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and activists including leading human rights defenders Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja and Naji Fateel;
- Immediately stop all actions that restrict freedom of opinion and expression;
- 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.