Bahrain Intensifies Crackdown on Activist
By Diana Sayed
Human Rights Defenders Program
Mohamed Hassan Sayef, a Bahraini blogger, was arrested on July 31, and was allegedly held incommunicado in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for over three days, according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). His computer, camera, phone and every other electronic item found in his room were also confiscated.
The arrest is part of an alarming wave of renewed repression targeting activists and peaceful protesters. In anticipation of the Egypt-inspired Tamarod protests, which began today, the Bahrain National Assembly recommended and the King signed off on repressive measures, including harsher penalties for those who use social networks to express opposition views or what the government deems “illegal activities.”
Sayef’s family was told that he was “wanted” but were not given any explanation for his arrest. He was then taken to the General Prosecutor for interrogation where he was denied legal counsel, and charged with “calling for gatherings,” before being transferred to Dry Dock Prison.
On August 7, he was able to access legal representation, and was charged with “operating accounts that call for changing the regime,” “inciting hatred of the regime” and “calling to disobey the law.” He remains in detention for a period of 45 days pending an investigation.
But there’s more to this case: Hassan’s lawyer, Abdul Aziz Moussa, was also arrested and his personal computer was confiscated after he reported on Twiter on the visible signs of torture he had seen on Hassan’s body. This confirmed Hassan’s reports that he had been subjected to torture while in custody at the CID. The public prosecution claimed that Moussa had “disclosed confidential information about the investigation,” and decided to keep the lawyer in detention for a week pending an investigation.
Other key human rights figures including Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR, Aldulhadi and Zainab Al Khawaja, remain in prison, and last week prominent Bahraini human rights defender Maryam Al Khawaja, Acting President of the BCHR, was refused permission to board a British Airways flight from Copenhagen to Bahrain, apparently at the request of the Bahrain regime. She was allowed into the country earlier this year.
Despite international criticism, the government’s crackdown has continued unabated. This week promises to be a huge test: for the ability of protesters to produce impressive numbers, for the willingness of the government to respond in accordance with international human rights law, and for the commitment of Bahrain’s allies to push for reform.
As the Tamarod movement protest continue to unfold, the U.S. government must not bear silent witness to another violent crackdown.