By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
MANAMA, Bahrain – Sayed Yousif Al- Muhafda, who was being held in detention, has recently been released on bail. He has been arrested for allegedly spreading false news to harm security. Muhafda is a human rights activist who happens to be the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
Muhafda was first arrested in November for partaking in an unauthorized protest. Shortly after he was arrested again in December during a protest in Manama where he took pictures of the clashes and posted them on Twitter. The public prosecution claimed that the photographs were old and not from the recent demonstration and stated that tweeting it caused “protests and acts of sabotage that disrupted security and order.”
Unauthorized demonstrations are prohibited in Bahrain. When a protest arises, often individuals are arrested for organizing or partaking in these demonstrations. Such actions are the authorities attempt to bring an end to the unrest. Amnesty International would just prefer that Bahrain met its obligations to promote human rights.
Amnesty International believes that Muhafda actually was arrested for his role as a defender of human rights. They view his detention as unjust and cite to international law, specifically the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders which grants individuals freedom of expression.
Instead of being put in prison, Muhafda was detained in a police station with migrant workers. This action was taken to further isolate Muhafda from other prisoners who may actually speak the same language as him.
Just a day after his release, Muhafda got right back to work, promoting human rights as an anti-government protest in Manama was suppressed by stun grenades, tear gas and pepper spray. Muhafda would not be deterred as he took to Twitter to tweet a picture of a young bleeding girl who was being arrested. This was the same type of action that got Muhafda arrested to begin with.
Muhafda is not the only individual to be punished by Bahraini authorities for promoting human rights. Just a week ago, Bahrain’s highest appellate court upheld the convictions of thirteen pro-democracy protestors who were convicted for “plotting to overthrow the monarchy.” A few weeks before that in December, two protesters were sentenced to death when they could have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Similar sanctions have been upheld against teachers and medics who organized a teacher strike and treated injured protestors, respectively.
Muhafda will be back in court on January 29th, when witnesses will begin to testify. Muhafda said that he could bring the injured man from his initial tweeted photograph into court, however, he believes that “our responsibility as human rights activists is to protect the victims.”
For further information, please see:
Gulf in the Media – Bahraini Court Releases Muhafda on Bail, Sets new Hearing – 19 January 2013
Ahlul Bayt News Agency – Bahraini Activist Released on Bail – 18 January 2013
Al Akhbar – Police Attack Bahrain Protest, Leading Activist Released – 18 January 2013
Jurist – Bahrain Court Releases Human Rights Activist on Bail Pending Trial – 18 January 2013