Reporters Without Borders and Media Legal Defence Initiative condemn yesterday’s decision by a Manama appeal court to uphold Police Lt. Sarah Al-Moosa’s acquittal on charges of torturing and mistreating Nazeeha Saeed, Bahrain correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya.
“The appeal court’s decision to confirm the police officer’s acquittal clearly shows the lack of independence of the Bahraini judicial system and the duplicitous nature of the government’s concern for its image in the eyes of the international community,” RWB and MLDI said.
“We call on the prosecutor-general to take charge of the case and refer it to the Court of Cassation.”
“This verdict encourages impunity among security system in Bahrain. I have three medical reports, two of them from Ministry of interior, and still nobody is punished", Saeed said to RWB.
Saeed was tortured and mistreated at Rifaa police station on 22 May 2011, when she was summoned for questioning about her coverage of pro-democracy protests and was accused of lying in her reports. She was also interrogated about possible links with the Hezbollah TV station Al-Manah and Iran’s Arabic-language TV station Al-Alam.
The treatment Saeed received during interrogation was condemned by Reporters Without Borders at the time.
The Media Legal Defence Initiative sent a Letter of Allegation to UN Special Rapporteurs earlier this year, asking them to make enquiries with the Bahraini authorities on the handling of Nazeeha’s case.
A Manama court originally acquitted Lt. Al-Moosa on 22 October 2012, describing Saeed’s evidence as “contradictory” and “not consistent with the forensic report.”
Following a great deal of media criticism of the verdict, the prosecutor’s office appealed against the acquittal in an apparent attempt to emphasize Bahrain’s respect for its international obligations.
But, operating out of sight of the cameras, the judicial system stood by its decision to clear the policewoman on grounds for which there has been little substantiation.
This denial of justice is unfortunately not isolated. Other cases have highlighted how difficult it is for journalists to work freely in Bahrain, which is ranked 165th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.