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Bahrain: Human rights defender Mohammed Al-Maskati sentenced to 6 months in prison
On 31 December 2014, the Lower Criminal Court in Bahrain sentenced human rights defender Mohammed Al-Maskati, a digital security expert at Front Line Defenders, to six months in prison. Reports confirm that a 100 BHD bail was paid so that he can remain out of prison until the appeal hearing.
The sentence relates back to 16 October 2012, when Mohammed Al-Maskati was summoned for interrogation at Al-Naem police station. He was then arrested and kept in custody to be brought the following day before the public prosecution office on charges of “rioting and participating in an illegal gathering.” The charges were allegedly in reference to a Friday protest in Manama (on 12 October 2012) entitled “Self-determination”. On 17 October 2012, he was released after interrogation.
Mohammed Al-Maskati is the former president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and has been active in documenting and reporting the violations committed by the Bahraini authorities in recent years. A few weeks before his arrest in October 2012, he had participated in side events at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is gravely concerned that the sentencing of Mohammed Al-Maskati is part of an on-going trend of using the politicised judiciary to create false cases associated with politically-motivated charges against human rights defenders and activists in Bahrain.
The GCHR urges the UN, the United States administration, as well as other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the United Kingdom, the European Union, and leading human rights organisations to:
- Immediately call for an end to the judicial harassment of Mohammed Al-Maskati and other human rights defenders, for all charges against him to be dropped, and for an end to the exploitation of the judicial system for political purposes;
- Increase the pressure on the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of restrictions.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters;” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”