For Immediate Release: January 7, 2013
Washington, DC – Human Rights First urges the Bahraini authorities to either immediately release prominent human rights defender Said Yousif Al-Muhafdhah or to charge him with an internationally-recognizable offense.
“Bahraini human rights defenders and civil society leaders continue to face threats, arrests and prosecutions for peaceful human rights activities,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “His detention fits a pattern of civil society leaders being targeted and harassed.”
Al-Muhafdhah, acting Vice President and Head of the Documentation Unit at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was arrested and detained on December 17, 2012 while observing a demonstration held in Manama to mark the anniversary of two protesters who were killed in 1994. He remains in custody and has been questioned for “disseminating false news over Twitter.” He is accused of tweeting that the police had shot and injured a young man with birdshot. His latest arrest follows a series of arrests over the last several months. On December 25, Al-Muhafdhah appeared before the prosecutor-general in Manama who decided to extend his detention for 15 additional days. His next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday January 9.
Al-Muhafdhah is an internationally-recognized human rights defender and was one of the leaders of civil society who met with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for a briefing when the senator visited the country last month.
The BCHR was awarded the 2012 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty by Human Rights First. The award was presented at the organization’s annual Human Rights Summit last month to Maryam Al-Khawaja, acting President of BCHR. The President of BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, is serving a two-year prison sentence for charges also related to the use of Twitter.
Today the Bahrain Court of Cassation confirmed the verdicts given by a military court in 2011 to 20 leading dissidents, including BCHR founder Abdulhadi Al Khawaja. Seven of the men were tried in absentia and all had had their sentences confirmed in today’s final appeal.