NGOs Call for Immediate Release of Activists Detained for Free Speech

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, The Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy express deep concern over the continued abuse of judicial power in Bahrain to target human rights activists. In particular, the organizations condemn the continued detention of human rights activists Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer and the sentencing of human rights activist Nader Abdulemam, and call for their immediate release.

On 30 October, a judge ordered the trial of Zainab al-Khawaja postponed until 4 December. She did not attend the court date, choosing to boycott what she believed would be an unfair and partisan judicial process. The government arrested al-Khawaja on 14 October 2014 during a court appearance on charges of tearing a photograph of the king of Bahrain. Al-Khawaja, who is eight months pregnant, is anticipated to remain in detention until her court appearance. Her family stated that she is scheduled to deliver her baby on 3 December via caesarian section. ADHRB, the BCHR, and BIRD express concern over the possibility of al-Khawaja giving birth in detention, as prison conditions in Bahrain are unsuitable for a newborn infant.

Human rights activist Nader Abdulemam was arrested on 27 August 2014 for allegedly insulting a religious figure on his personal Twitter account. On 23 October, a Bahraini court sentenced Abdulemam to six months imprisonment on charges related to the tweet. He has been detained since his arrest. Abdulemam has been previously targeted for exercising his right to freedom of expression.

The government detained women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer on 15 September after issuing Tweets raising concerns of corruption and criticizing the management of Hamad University Hospital. Her Twitter account (@Ghada_Jamsheer) was suspended following her arrest. On 29 October, a Bahraini court ordered Jamsheer to pay a fine of 100 Bahraini dinars (USD 265) on charges of “defamation on Twitter”. She is facing two additional cases in relation to freedom of expression, while the public prosecution is investigating another eight possible defamation cases brought forward against her by individuals, including the hospital head General Doctor Salman Atiyat Allah Al Khalifa, a member of the ruling family. Her next court hearing will be on the 24 November.

The aforementioned organization call on the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Zainab Al-Khawaja, drop all charges related to freedom of expression and ensure proper medical care;
  • Immediately and unconditionally Nader Abdulemam and Ghada Jamsheer and drop all charges related to freedom of expression; and
  • Release all political prisoners and end the systematic targeting of individuals for exercising their right to peaceful freedom of expression.