‘The Bahraini authorities must not place Zainab Al Khawaja behind bars yet again’ - Said Boumedouha
A Bahraini activist recently released from prison has told Amnesty International she fears she may be rearrested when she attends court tomorrow to face further spurious charges.
Zainab Al Khawaja, an outspoken activist who had already spent nearly a year in jail serving several short sentences for an array of charges before being released last Sunday, is due to appear in court again tomorrow in two separate cases.
In the first case, Al Khawaja is accused of destroying government property after she ripped up a picture of the Bahraini King while she was detained in a women’s detention centre in ‘Issa Town on 4 and 6 May 2012. In the second, she is accused of insulting a police officer last June after she defended a prisoner she claims was being humiliated in front of her.
She has previously been jailed for destroying government property, insulting a policewoman, illegal gathering and rioting, and inciting hatred against the regime, among other charges.
Al Khawaja has told Amnesty that during her incarceration additional restrictions were placed on her when she went on hunger strike last March, with the prison authorities responding by denying her family visits or phone calls to her lawyer. The restrictions only ended when she finished the hunger strike.
Amnesty has previously designated Al Khawaja a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising her rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and the organisation has repeatedly called for her unconditional release. Al Khawaja and her family are among many activists who have been targeted by the Bahraini authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly in an effort to stamp out all dissent since the country’s 2011 uprising.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Said Boumedouha said:
“The Bahraini authorities must not place Zainab Al Khawaja behind bars yet again. Her release this week was long overdue.
“She has long been a thorn in the side of the Bahraini government, which has repeatedly found excuses to ensure she remains locked up in order to silence her.
“The authorities must take urgent steps to clear Zainab Al Khawaja’s name once and for all. Her convictions must be overturned and all outstanding charges dropped as a matter of urgency.
“Activists must be allowed to freely express their opinions without fear of intimidation, harassment or arrest. All Bahraini prisoners of conscience must be released immediately and unconditionally, and the right to freedom of expression and assembly respected.”