Reporters Without Borders calls on the Arab League to make the release of detained news providers and other prisoners of conscience a condition for implementation of its 1 September decision to allow Bahrain to host the Arab Court of Human Rights.
On the eve of the start of the trial of human rights lawyer Abdul Aziz Mousa and a new hearing in the trial of Ahmed Humaidan, a photographer detained since December 2012, Reporters Without Borders also voices deep concern about the five news and information providers currently detained in Bahrain.
“For more than two years, the Bahraini authorities have suppressed demonstrations calling for political reforms and have hounded the news providers who covered the protests and the force used by the police to disperse them,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Five news providers are currently being held. Independent investigations must be conducted into their claims that they have been tortured while in detention. We call for their immediate release and the withdrawal of the charges against them.”
Humaidan was arrested on 29 December 2012 on a charge of participating in an attack on a police station in Sitra on 8 April 2012, when in fact he was at the scene to cover police abuses.
His trial has made little progress since it began on 12 February, with the prosecution repeatedly postponing hearings because of its failure to produce witnesses. When the main prosecution witness was finally cross-examined on 10 June, his testimony contradicted his earlier statements.
Humaidan’s lawyer argues that the inconsistencies in his testimony are sufficient to invalidate his client’s arrest and the prosecution’s case against him.
At the same time, his lawyer has repeatedly requested an independent investigation into his client’s torture allegations and has in vain asked the prison authorities to let a doctor examine him.
Blogger Mohamed Hassan and photographer Hussain Hubail have been held since 31 July. They were charged on 21 August with “managing (electronic) accounts calling for the government’s overthrow,” promoting and inciting hatred against the government, inciting others to disobey the law, and calling for illegal demonstrations.
Hassan and Hubail, who are still awaiting trial, are also charged with “contributing to the Twitter account of the 14 February media network (@Feb14Media).”
Their lawyer, Abdul Aziz Mousa, was arrested on 7 August on a charge of “publishing the names of defendants without permission” and divulging confidential information about an investigation. After being released on bail on 21 August, he is due to go on trial tomorrow.
Freelance cameraman Qassim Zain Aldeen has been held at Dry Dock detention centre ever since police arrested him at his home on 13 August, on the eve of the “Tamarod” demonstrations. No charges have been brought against him.
Finally, Hasan Ma'atooq, a nurse who was arrested on 24 March 2011 for posting photos of injured demonstrators online, is still serving a three-year jail sentence. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights told Reporters Without Borders that, as he has served more than half of his sentence, he could now request early release.