Acquittal in Bahrain Twitter Case Comes as Dooley Denied Access Again
Washington, D.C. – A Bahraini court has acquitted prominent human rights defender Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) on charges of tweeting false information.
“It’s a great relief that Said Yousif was acquitted today, bringing an end to three months of judicial harassment. Let’s hope this means the courts are beginning to show a better understanding of what freedom of expression means,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley.
Al-Muhafdah was accused of tweeting about police using birdshot against protesters, He was arrested in December 2012 for “spreading false information on Twitter.” He told Human Rights First that he has was not allowed to bring defense witnesses to his trial. His case is one in a string cases stemming from the Kingdom’s ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders. It followed last year’s jailing of Nabeel Rajab, President of the BCHR, and of human rights activist Zainab Al Khawaja in February 2013.
“This is a small victory, but unfortunately there are many other cases of judicial harassment that continue to wind their way through Bahrain’s judicial system,” Dooley noted. “The United States has a responsibility to monitor these proceedings and to publicly comment when cases fail to meet basic legal standards.”
On March 21, the appeal of 23 medics, each sentenced to three months in prison after treating injured protestors in 2011, will continue. A verdict is expected at a date soon after. Dooley, who was in the courtroom when the medics were initially charged, was to have been in Bahrain from March 17-21, but the Bahrain Ministry for Human Rights has reversed its decision to admit him to the Kingdom. Dooley, who has authored four reports about the ongoing crackdown in Bahrain, has been forbidden access to the nation for more than a year.
“This is not how a nation that wants to trumpet its human rights record treats monitors,” said Dooley. “My reporting has been accurate. It’s clear that the Kingdom feels it has something to hide.”