Human rights groups in Bahrain accused their country’s government on Wednesday
of being "emboldened by international silence" over the recent arrests and
harassment of prominent rights defenders.
The groups, who include the
Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights,
issued an urgent appeal after police summoned BYSHR’s director, Muhammad
al-Maskati, to report to to the al-Hoora police station in Manama on Tuesday on
charges of rioting and participating in an illegal gathering.
Bahrain’s Penal Code, it is a criminal offense for five or more people to gather
in a public place to “undermine public security, even if intended to achieve
Maskati’s lawyers said the human rights activist had
been remanded in custody Tuesday night and ordered to appear in the prosecutor’s
office on Wednesday.
The rights groups called on the international human
rights community to join the appeal to the Bahraini government for al-Maskati’s
release, warning that if they did not speak out the authorities may continue
their crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.
The groups said that
Maskati’s arrest followed his participation last month in the UN Human Rights
Council in Geneva.
Last month, BYSHR accused the Bahraini authorities of
threatening Maskati after he spoke at the council, noting that the kingdom’s
pro-government al-Watan newspaper published a photograph of Maskati and other
human rights leaders under the caption “al-Watan reveals the names of
participants who discredited Bahrain in Geneva.”
Rights groups also said
that Maskati’s arrest comes as part of a recent government crackdown on human
rights and pro-democracy protests in Bahrain.
Over the weekend, police
fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters at a second, larger pro-democracy
rally in Manama, named “Stop Our Bloodshed, We Will Never Abandon Our Demands”
and led by Bahrain’s main opposition bloc, the Shi’ite al-Wefaq National Islamic
Society, according to Reuters.
On Tuesday, a Bahraini human rights lawyer
said a court had prolonged the appeal of another highprofile Bahraini human
rights activist jailed for three years for illegal assembly.
Rajab, who serves as president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was
sentenced in August.
Rajab’s lawyer, attorney Muhammad al-Jishi, said on
Twitter that the judge had refused to release Rajab, would not allow defense
witnesses into the courtroom and postponed his court hearing until November
According to Amnesty International, Rajab’s defense attorneys also
asked the court to open an investigation into evidence that has apparently gone
missing from his case file.
Bahrain, which is home to the US Navy’s 5th
Fleet, has seen anti-regime protests since February 14, 2011, when Shi’ite
protesters demanded increased civic freedoms and greater participation in the
According to the International Federation for Human
Rights, at least 80 people have been killed since the protests began.
Sunday, lawyers representing five hunger striking Shi’ite medics jailed in
connection with the protests also called on the international community to
campaign for their release.
The medics, including senior orthopedic
surgeon Ali Alekri, were arrested after caring for protesters wounded in last
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