A court in Bahrain on Thursday released [AI press release] human rights activist Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafda [official Twitter] on bail pending trial for charges of spreading false news to harm security, according to Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. Al-Muhafda, the acting deputy head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) [advocacy website], was arrested in November [JURIST report] during an unauthorized protest. After being released without charge, Al-Muhafda was arrested again in December during a clash between protesters and the government in Manama, Bahrain's capital. In its press release, AI declared that Al-Muhafda was likely arrested because of his advocacy for human rights and proclaimed that he has freedom of expression rights under international law that Bahrain's government must not violate:
The 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders expressly reaffirms the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), by which human rights defenders have the right to freely publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and to draw public attention to their observance, both in law and in practice.Al-Muhafda is scheduled to appear in court on January 29 when witnesses are expected to testify.
Bahrain [JURIST news archive] has faced international scrutiny recently regarding its treatment of political prisoners. Last week the highest Bahraini appellate court upheld the convictions [JURIST report] of 13 prominent pro-democracy protestors convicted by military tribunal in 2011 on charges of plotting to overthrow the monarchy. In December Bahrain's High Criminal Court of Appeals commuted death sentences [JURIST report] for two protesters, instead sentencing them to life imprisonment. Earlier in December the prison sentence for outspoken Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab was reduced by one year [JURIST report]. In November AI released a brief [JURIST report] detailing how Bahrain had failed to meet its obligations and promises to ensure respect for human rights and prevent further torture within the country. In October the Bahrain appeals court upheld verdicts against two teachers [JURIST report] for organizing a teacher's strike to support anti-government protests. Earlier in October the Bahrain Court of Cassation upheld jail sentences [JURIST report] issued to nine medics convicted for their involvement in Bahrain's pro-democracy uprising in February and March of 2011.