14 Nov 2012

A Manama appeal court yesterday upheld journalist Reem Khalifa’s conviction on a trumped-up charge of physically attacking two women doctors and insulting a third after a Manama news conference in July 2011.

The charges were brought against Khalifa after she accused the three doctors, who are government supporters, of attacking and insulting her. She will have to pay a fine of 100 BD (210 euros) and a total of 500 BD in compensation to the doctors (BD 200 to each of the two she allegedly attacked and BD 100 to the one she allegedly insulted)

The appeal court’s decision is just the latest in a series of rulings that demonstrate the Bahraini judicial system’s complete lack of independence. The court did not examine the evidence provided by Khalifa’s lawyer.

On 23 October, Reporters Without Borders asked the United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to look into Police Lt. Sarah Al-Moosa’s acquittal by a Manama court the previous day on charges of torturing and mistreating Bahraini journalist Nazeeha Saeed, a correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Daouliya, at a Rifaa police station on 22 May 2011.

In another court decision yesterday, Internet user Ali Al-Haiki was sentenced to four months in prison on a lèse-majesté charge for messages he posted on Twitter. He is one of four netizens who were arrested on 16 October on charges of defaming public persons on social media. All four pleaded not guilty when their trial opened on 22 October.

The first to be convicted was Abdullah Al-Hashemi, who was given a six-month jail term on 1 November for “insulting the king.” The other two, Salman Darwish and Ali Mohamed Watheqi, were sentenced to a month and four months in prison respectively on 5 November.

The court also ordered the confiscation of the computers and mobile phones of all four cyber-activists. According to the interior ministry, the police are still looking for a fifth person.

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafda, the vice-president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and head of its documentation unit, was released today, 12 days after being arrested in Diraz (west of Manama) while investigating the use of violence to disperse a demonstration earlier the same day.

Immediately after his arrest, Muhafda was taken to a police station in Budaiya (further to the west) and was interrogated there. The next day, he was taken before the prosecutor general, who ordered him denied for seven days for “participating in illegal demonstrations” although Muhafda categorically denied the charge.

The prosecutor general extended his detention for another seven days on 10 November. Although the charge was participating in illegal demonstrations, he was mainly questioned about the interviews he gave during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September (Read the statement released by Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders).

Demonstrations in Bahrain have been banned “for a limited period” since 30 October. The ban – which violates the constitution and runs counter to the UPR recommendations in September, which the government accepted – has been strongly criticized by the United States and the UN secretary-general.

rsf.org