Reporters Without Borders

Unacceptable arrests of human rights activists

Published on Friday 20 August 2010.
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Abdeljalil Al-Singace, a blogger and academic who heads a mainly Shiite opposition group called Haq (or Movement for Liberties and Democracy), was arrested on 13 August on returning from London, where he took part in a seminar on the worsening human rights situation in Bahrain.

He has been accused of defaming the government and judicial authorities, and “publishing false information about the country’s internal affairs” with the aim of sullying its image.

His arrest was followed by the arrests of seven other Shiite citizens between 15 and 17 August for allegedly organising a network aimed at destabilising the kingdom: Abdul Ghani Al-Kanjar, the spokesman of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture, Mohammed Saeed, a member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Jaafar Hisabi and four clerics – Mohammed Al-Muqdad, Saeed Al-Nouri, Abdulhadi Al-Mokhoder and Mirza Al-Mahrus.

“We call for the immediate release of these activists as all they did was criticise their country’s violations of basic freedoms,” Reporters Without Borders said. “These arbitrary detentions are designed to silence those whose statements and publics stances are annoying the authorities, especially in the run-up to parliamentary elections on 23 October. Al-Singace’s arrest is particularly intolerable because of his precarious health.”

The authorities have tried to minimise the impact of the arrests, which have prompted protests. Press coverage has been strictly controlled, with the media giving only the government’s version. Anti-riot police used tear-gas to disperse Al-Singace’s relatives when they gathered outside the public prosecutor’s office. None of the eight detainees has been able to talk to their lawyers.

Al-Singace’s website, called Fassila (http://alsingace.katib.org), was closed down by the authorities in February 2009. He used it to criticise the systematic use of torture in Bahrain’s prisons, discrimination against the country’s Shiite population and the deplorable state of fundamental freedoms.

Al-Singace and Al-Kanjar were both arrested in 2009 for allegedly launching a campaign to destabilise the government. Al-Singace is handicapped and suffers from various ailments.

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