The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern over the authorities attack on freedom of expression. Dr. Saeed Al-Semahiji was recently tried and sentenced on the charge of "insulting the king" for a speech he gave during a funeral.
On Wednesday, 18 September 2013, Dr. Saeed Al-Semahiji was summoned by the Criminal Investigation department (CID) for interrogation; however, because he wasn't feeling well, he went to the CID on Thursday. On his way to the interrogation, he received a call from his family that security forces were at his house with an arrest warrant.
Dr. Al-Semahiji was interrogated about a speech he gave during a protester’s funeral. He was then transferred to the public prosecution for further interrogation and he was show a video recording of his speech.
Dr. Al-Semahiji was accused of "insulting the king" a charge that he denied. However, his case was transferred to court. On 11 December 2013, the lower criminal court convicted him of the charge, and sentenced him to one-year imprisonment. He was released on BD200 bail.
His lawyer stated in his defense that what his client said falls under his right to freedom of expression and that he didn't insult the king. He also said that there are many complaints of inciting hatred that were documented and confirmed by the BICI, that no actions were taken to hold those responsible accountable, although the incidents were reported to the authorities.
It is worth noting that Dr. Saeed Al-Semahiji was imprisoned for one year following his arrest along with a number of medics who were all severely tortured treating injured protesters, and for supporting the Bahraini people's demand for democracy.
This is not the first time the authorities have prosecuted and sentenced an individual on the charge of "insulting the king". Freedom of expression is preserved by Bahraini national law and the constitution, however, the King of Bahrain heads the executive, legislative and judicial authorities and appoints the government, its members, the judiciary and public prosecutors. The King therefore has total power to prosecute anyone criticizing him.
The BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN, and all other allies and international institutions to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to immediately:
- Release all activists sentenced to prison over the charge of "insulting the king" and for practicing their fundamental rights to freedom of expression
- Drop all charges related to freedom of expression in cases that are currently ongoing in court.
- Withdraw all national and local laws that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression, or prevent the transmission of information.