Bahraini Judge Extends Maryam Al Khawaja’s Detention

Washington, D.C. – This morning, a Bahraini judge ruled to extend leading Bahraini human rights activist Maryam Al Khawaja’s detention for 10 days. Al Khawaja was arrested as she arrived in Bahrain last Saturday. She made the 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 has been detained since her arrest and denies the charge of assaulting police officers at the airport.

Maryam’s lawyer said he was not permitted to speak with her before or during her questioning by the public prosecutor last week. In 2012, when Human Rights First observed various court proceedings for dozens of medics who were prosecuted after treating injured protestors, it found that lawyers for the defense were not permitted to call various witnesses or raise issues about their clients’ torture in custody.

“Today’s court proceeding is more of the same from Bahrain, which has a long record of using judicial harassment and rigged political trials to target leading human rights activists. That’s not due process and it is the kind of behavior that should not be tolerated by Bahrain’s international allies, including the United States,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Yesterday, the U.S. State Department said it was urging the Bahraini Government to ensure full due process rights. It should now publicly say whether, in its view, today’s ruling and her treatment so far meets international legal standards.”

Al Khawaja has been a familiar figure in Washington over the last three years. She has regularly met with members of Congress and administration officials. She has also provided policymakers with valuable information on the human rights situation in Bahrain. In 2011, she testified as a witness at a congressional hearing on Bahrain.

“The United States should take special interest in this case because Maryam is being targeted because of her international advocacy work, including in Washington,” said Dooley. “The U.S. government should make clear to its military ally Bahrain that there should be no reprisals against congressional witnesses. The Obama Administration already has a serious credibility problem with Bahraini civil society that will only get worse if it fails to speak out about how Maryam’s case is being handled.”

Dooley notes that according to the U.S. State Department, U.S. sales to foreign military groups total $1.4 billion a year, and close to 90 percent of Bahraini Defense Force equipment is of U.S. origin. “With that sort of leverage, Washington should stop being so hesitant about criticizing the Bahrain regime’s human rights record.”

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.


Published on September 6, 2014


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