Bahraini Activist Maryam Al Khawaja Released from Detention
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomes reports that leading human rights activist Maryam Al Khawaja has been released from detention in Bahrain, and urges the Bahraini government to drop the politically-motivated charges against her and to lift the ban preventing her from leaving the country. Al Khawaja was arrested as she arrived in Bahrain on August 30 on a trip to visit her father, who is currently on a hunger strike and is serving a life sentence for his peaceful part in 2011 protests. She was immediately detained under the charge of assaulting police officers at the airport, which she denies.
“We are delighted that Maryam has been released from detention today and will be allowed to return home to her family,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “But thousands more remain in jail. Bahrain won’t make real progress toward stability until it deals with its wider political prisoner problem. We are also concerned that Maryam won’t be allowed to leave Bahrain and that the bogus charges against her will remain, posing a continuing threat to her work as a human rights defender.”
Al Khawaja, a familiar figure in Washington, left Bahrain three years ago in order to advocate for reform in Bahrain. She has regularly met with members of Congress and administration officials, and has provided policymakers with valuable information on the human rights situation in Bahrain. Earlier this week, the Bahraini courts extended Al Khawaja’s detention for the second time. This week, after a short hunger strike of her own, Maryam was allowed to visit her father with the rest of her family, but she was returned to detention immediately afterwards.
Maryam’s case was raised during Congressional hearings last week by Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and her release was urged by Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Congressmen Frank Wolf (R-VA) and James McGovern (D-MA).
“As a military ally to Bahrain, the United States should make clear to the Bahraini government that ongoing judicial harassment and imprisonment of peaceful human rights defenders will undermine the bilateral relationship,” said Dooley.
In 2012, Maryam accepted the Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty on behalf of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights during Human Rights First’s annual Human Rights Summit in Washington, DC.