Bahraini Court Extends Maryam Al Khawaja’s Detention for the Second Time
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First said that today’s Bahraini court decision to extend the detention of leading human rights activist Maryam Al Khawaja for a second time demonstrates the U.S. ally’s ongoing strategy of using judicial harassment to target human rights defenders. 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.
“Bahrain claims it doesn’t understand why it gets so much international criticism, but court decisions like today’s only invite more censure,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Keeping Maryam and other peaceful leaders either in jail or out of the country means Bahrain is creating more space for those advocating violence.”
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.
Today, the Bahraini courts extended Al Khawaja’s detention until at least October 1. Yesterday, 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.
“The Bahraini regime seems intent on solving its human rights crisis by filling its prisons with activists rather than implementing the reform that’s needed,” noted Dooley. “It’s an unsustainable policy, and it is deepening the country’s political crisis. The United States has a responsibility to make clear that these policies undermine the U.S.-Bahrain relationship.”
Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. State Department to condemn the ongoing detention of Al Khawaja, call on the Bahraini Government to ensure full due process rights, and to release activists being held in prison under political charges.
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.