Washington, D.C. - Human Rights First today called on the U.S. government to urge Bahraini authorities to drop the case against prominent human rights defender Mohammed al Maskati. Al Maskati is expecting a court verdict on December 25 on charges of participating in an illegal gathering.
“Bahrain seems stuck in a never-ending cycle of harassing its human rights defenders. It should stop wasting time pursuing spurious charges against al Maskati and other activists and start addressing the country’s real human right problems,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Jailing medics, teachers, and human rights activists like Abdulhadi, Zainab and Maryam Al Khawaja, and Nabeel Rajab has done nothing to end the country’s political unrest. It’s time to close this chapter of repression and get real political talks going."
Al Maskati is a recognized digital security expert and trains human rights defenders in protecting themselves online. The charges in al Maskati’s case date back to October 2012, when he was accused of taking part in a peaceful protest in the capital Manama. If convicted he could face a sentence of up to six months in prison. Al Maskati was initially charged one month after he spoke at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva during a panel discussion focused on intimidations and reprisals, where he spoke about the intimidation campaign against him. He reported receiving repeated threats, and said he was threatened with death if he “damaged Bahrain’s reputation in Geneva.”
In recent months, Bahraini authorities have used judicial harassment to target human rights defenders, including of activists Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja. A Bahraini court this month sentenced Zainab Al Khawaja to more than four years in prison in a series of cases resulting from her peaceful dissent against the regime. Rajab is on trial for "denigrating government institutions" on Twitter, and his next court hearing is due on January 20.
“These charges look, smell, and taste like reprisals for embarrassing the Bahrain government internationally for its abuses,” said Dooley. “The U.S. government should call for this case and those of other prominent human rights activists to be dismissed, making clear that not doing so will damage the bilateral relationship.”