Bahrain Champion for Justice: Dr. Saeed al-Samahiji
Dr. Saeed al-Samahiji is an ophthalmologist and human rights activist who extended his medical services to help injured protesters during the 2011 pro-democracy protests in Bahrain. As a result, Dr. Al-Samahiji was among 20 medics that were convicted by a special military court on 29 September 2011 for treating Bahraini citizens who had been attacked by security forces in a brutal government crackdown against political dissent. After appealing to the Court of Appeals on 14 June 2012, Dr. Al-Samahiji’s sentence was reduced from ten years to one year. During his time in detention, Dr. Al-Samahiji got a head injury which resulted in internal bleeding, and he was sent abroad to be treated in Jordan.
On 18 September 2013, less than six months after being released from prison, Dr. Al-Samahiji was summoned for interrogation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) following the funeral of a young protester who had died as result of excessive use of force by Bahraini authorities. Dr. Al-Samahiji voluntarily reported to the CID the following day, 19 September 2013. Al-Samahiji was then transferred to the public prosecution for further interrogation until he was released on bail of 200 BHD.
Despite Dr. Al-Samahiji’s denial of the charge and his lawyer’s statements that his speech falls under the right of freedom of expression, as protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the court sentenced him to one-year in prison. On 3 April 2014, a court of appeal upheld the verdict delivered against Dr. Al-Samahiji. Government security forces arrested Dr. Al-Samahiji from his home in the early morning hours on 1 July 2014 to begin serving his prison sentence.
The arrest of Dr. Saeed al-Samahiji is the latest in the Bahraini authorities’ escalating crackdown on the freedom of expression. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD) join together in calling for the release of Dr. Al-Samahiji and all Bahraini prisoners convicted of “insulting the King” in contravention of international law.