Bahrain Continues Crackdown, Sentences Zainab Al-Khawaja to Prison

Freedom House condemns the decision by a Bahraini court to reject the appeals for human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, sentencing her to three months in prison. The court’s decision reflects the regime’s continued persecution of those who have peacefully opposed its repressive rule and further demonstrates its utter failure to engage in meaningful reform.

On February 27, authorities arrested Zainab during a sit-in in front of the Royal Palace in Al Qudaybiyah, where she was protesting authorities’ decision not to hand over the body of activist Mahmoud Issa al-Jaziri, killed during a demonstration by a tear gas canister.  A day later, the court rejected two of Zainab’s previous appeals, which included an appeal to reverse a one-month prison sentence for participating in an ‘unauthorized demonstration’ in February 2012, and another appeal to reverse a two-month prison sentence for allegedly destroying property belonging to the Ministry of Interior. She remains in custody at the Hoora Detention Center. The decision to sentence Zainab to prison comes several days after 44 United Nations members released a statement expressing “serious concern” with the human rights situation in the country and with the government’s imprisonment of persons exercising the right to free expression.

Authorities have detained Zainab numerous times in the past for her activism. She has campaigned for the release of her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who was among the group of pro-democracy activists sentenced to life in prison for “plotting to overthrow the government.” Last year her father went on a hunger strike for more than 100 days to protest his imprisonment. He and his two daughters, Zainab and Maryam, were the recipients of Freedom House’s annual Freedom Award for their continued struggle for human rights in Bahrain. Watch the following video to learn more about the Al-Khawajas:



Bahrain is rated Not Free in the 2013 edition of Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report and Not Free in the 2012 edition of the Freedom of the Press and Freedom on the Net reports. Citizens have been broadly engaged in protests calling for a more representative government and denouncing ongoing human rights abuses since February 2011. Rights groups have reported ongoing arrests, intimidation, and in some cases torture of those who speak out against the regime. There has been no evidence of real reform, despite the government’s pledge to implement recommendations from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, and the country has been steadily moving in the wrong direction.

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