IFEX is concerned over the recent intensification of arrests and threats against free expression advocates in Bahrain, including the military investigation against Nabeel Rajab, president of IFEX member BCHR.
(IFEX) – 11 April 2011 – The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) is gravely concerned over the recent intensification of arrests and threats against free expression advocates in Bahrain, including the military investigation against Nabeel Rajab, president of IFEX member Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).
On 10 April 2011, the Ministry of the Interior launched an investigation against Rajab for allegedly having “published on his Twitter account a fabricated image of Ali Isa Saqer”. The photos of Saqer, who died in police custody on 9 April, showed alleged torture marks on his body. Persecution for publishing images on Twitter demonstrates the increasing contempt by the Bahraini authorities towards freedom of expression and Internet freedom.
We have reason to believe that Rajab is at high risk of arrest on trumped-up charges. This is not the first time that Rajab has been targeted for his human rights work and for speaking out; he was briefly arrested and held by security forces on 20 March. He was blindfolded, handcuffed, put into the back of a car, beaten and threatened.
Other BCHR members have been suffering threats and attacks, for example on 9 April Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, former MENA Director at Front Line and former president of BCHR, was beaten unconscious at the home of his eldest daughter, Zainab Alkhawaja. She was also beaten when she tried to intervene as 15 masked men entered their home. Alkhawaja was arrested along with two of his sons-in law, Wafi Almajid and Hussein Ahmed. Alkhawaja was not allowed to take his medication with him and was dragged away bleeding and barefoot by authorities. The whereabouts of all three men are still unknown and there is extreme concern for their well-being and fear that their situations could be life threatening.
Mohammad Al-Maskati, Alkhawaja’s other son-in-law and the president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYHRS), has been documenting violations since the protests began and was also beaten at the house but not arrested.
On 11 April, Zainab Alkhawaja began a hunger strike demanding the release of her family members.
We call on the authorities to exercise restraint and respect the right of BCHR and other human rights defenders to document and report cases of abuse and harassment. We stand behind our member BCHR and our partners working in Bahrain in calling for an end to the persecution of journalists, bloggers and other activists for exercising their right to freedom of expression.