Additional Prison Sentences Handed Down to Bahraini Human Rights Defender Zainab Al Khawaja

Washington, D.C. – In response to today’s news that Bahraini human rights activist Zainab Al Khawaja has been sentenced to 16 months in prison in addition to last week’s three-year sentence, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley issued the following statement:

“These verdicts come at a time when Bahrain faces growing instability with reports of more bombings in Bahrain. Sending Zainab to prison for longer doesn’t make Bahrain any safer or bring a political solution any closer. These court decisions set the country back, encouraging polarization and frustration. Jailing her on these charges is the wrong response, deepening Bahrain’s political crisis, and the sentences make the world wonder if the regime is serious about reform, or is just vindictive.”

A Bahraini court issued today’s sentences – one of 12 months, another of four months – which are due to begin immediately. Last week, Al Khawaja was sentenced to three years in prison for tearing up a picture of the king during a court hearing on October 14. Al Khawaja’s family has stated that last week’s sentence is not due to be implemented before an appeal occurs in June 2015.

Al Khawaja, who attended Beloit University in Wisconsin, spent most of 2013 in prison for her peaceful protests against the regime. Al Khawaja’s father, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, is one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders. He is currently serving a life sentence for his peaceful part in 2011 protests. Her sister, Maryam Al Khawaja, was sentenced last week in absentia to a year in prison on charges of assaulting police officers when she arrived in Bahrain in August, a charge she denies.

Many peaceful opposition leaders jailed during the 2011 protests remain in prison, and Bahrain continues to jail those peacefully expressing their views including those who criticize the ruling monarchy on Twitter. Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to publicly press the Bahraini regime to release its political prisoners. Human Rights First urges the U.S. government to send observers to the trials of human rights activists and to state publicly whether proceedings meet international legal standards.


Published on December 9, 2014


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