HRW Calls on EU, US Action to Liberate Bahraini Activist from Jail

HRW Calls on EU, US Action to Liberate Bahraini Activist from Jail
Fri Mar 25, 2016 13:24:09

Human Rights Watch has called on the European Union and the US to help release Zainab al-Khawaja, a prominent Bahraini activist and political dissident who was taken into custody by the monarchy's security forces earlier this month.

Khawaja, who is a Danish citizen, and her 1-year-old son Abdulhadi were arrested in their home in the capital city of Manama on March 14.

“Zainab al-Khawaja’s imprisonment will rightly bring shame on Bahrain and they should find no tacit support for their actions from their allies,” Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, said Thursday.

“Danish and European Union authorities should be making unequivocal calls for her immediate release, as should Washington,” Stork added.

According to HRW, the activist should spend 37 months in prison to serve five sentences, four of which violate her right to free expression and one of which resulted from an unfair trial.

Insulting King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and tearing up his pictures were among charges against al-Khawaja that HRW said were unfair.

The fifth case involved a mistrial where a judge who convicted al-Khawaja of being “present in a restricted area” and “insulting police officers” refused to allow her defense lawyers to present a video that might have exonerated her.

Upon a law ratified by Al Khalifa in 2014, offending the monarch carries a maximum jail term of seven years and a fine of up to 10,000 Bahraini Dinars (US$26,500).

HRW also slammed the US for ignoring al-Khawaja’s case. The US State Department spokesman John Kirby called on the Bahraini authorities to “follow due process in all cases and to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings.”

Michel Forst, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, urged the Manama regime on March 18 to free al-Khawaja.

She is the daughter of leading human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence in connection with his influential role in the 2011 protests against Al Khalifa regime.

Since February 14, 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous rallies on an almost daily basis in Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa family to relinquish power, Press TV reported.

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