GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF CAMPAIGN TO SUPPRESS DISSENT
On 14 March, BCHR vice-president Nabeel Rajab was called before criminal investigators looking into a case filed against him by a health ministry employee. BCHR believes this investigation and any resulting criminal charges are part of a government attempt to silence activists who publicise the so-called "Bandargate" report. The report named the health ministry employee as having been paid by a senior government official to set up anti-Shia internet forums.
The report, by Salah Al Bandar of the London-based Gulf Centre for Democratic Development, cited government documents purportedly showing a network of high-level government officials working to maintain the economic and political oppression and disenfranchisement of Bahrain's Shia majority. Al Bandar was deported from Bahrain last fall after giving his report to the media, and the Higher Criminal Court banned all news and discussion of it.
In a related case, BCHR president Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and two activists who continue to highlight the Bandargate scandal face criminal charges that carry prison terms of up to 15 years. Websites and blogs that have discussed the scandal, including BCHR's, have been blocked inside Bahrain. The BCHR itself was dissolved by the government in 2004, but continues to operate as a human rights NGO.
After the BCHR president and Al Bandar participated in an American Enterprise Institute seminar in Washington, DC in February, an editorial in the "Gulf Daily News" suggested the meeting was an act of conspiracy and treason. On 19 February, the kingdom's prime minister publicly commended the editorial.
Visit these sites:
- IFEX: http://www.ifex.org/fr/content/view/full/81443/
- BCHR: http://bahrainrights.org/ref07031501
- Human Rights First:
- Human Rights Watch: http://hrw.org/englishwr2k7/docs/2007/01/11/bahrai14699.htm