A Bahraini criminal court has sentenced freelance photographer Sayed Ahmed Al Mousawi to 10 years in prison on a terrorism charge and has stripped him of his nationality. Reporters Without Borders condemns this arbitrary trial of a journalist who just covered pro-democracy demonstrations.
Accused of giving SIM cards to “terrorist” demonstrators and taking photos of anti-government protests, Mousawi was finally convicted two days ago in a trial that began nearly a year ago and had repeatedly been postponed since February. His lawyer said he would appeal against his conviction. “The threats and intimidation campaigns against professional journalists and citizen journalists have just one aim – to use ‘terrorism’ as a pretext for suppressing all criticism of an authoritarian regime,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Middle East desk. “It is outrageous that a journalist has been treated like a terrorist. Arbitrary arrests of peaceful dissidents, systematic torture and impunity have turned Bahrain into a dangerous country for those who speak out. We condemn Mousawi’s arbitrary detention and call on the authorities to overturn his conviction.” Many Bahrainis have been stripped of their citizenship this year. Those targeted include not only government opponents and Islamic State members but also doctors and journalists. The recipient of many international awards, Mousawi was arrested without a warrant at his home in the town of Diraz on 10 February 2014, when police confiscated his camera and other electronic apparatus. His trial did not begin until December 2014 and, according to his family, he was repeatedly tortured in detention, especially during interrogation at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department. A total of eight journalists and five citizen-journalists are currently detained in Bahrain, according to a Reporters Without Borders tally. The trial of the leading satirical blogger known as Takrooz is scheduled to being on 25 November. Arrested on 18 June 2014 at Manama airport, he is charged with inciting anti-government hatred and using expressions liable to incite sectarianism. The appeal of Ali Al-Mearaj, a blogger held since 6 January 2014, is due to be heard on 1 December. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison on 8 April 2014 on charges of “misusing information technology” and insulting the king in connection with his management of an opposition website. Bahrain is ranked 115th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.