Update Alert: Bahrain – Haq Movement leaders on trial in Bahrain

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35 Bahraini activists on trial in Bahrain, including members of opposition group Haq.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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26 February 2009

Update Alert: Bahrain – Haq Movement leaders on trial in Bahrain

Contents
1. Summary
2. Background
3. Action required
4. Sample letters


1. Summary

Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, spokesperson for Haq (Haq movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy), collapsed on the eighth day of the hunger strike due to 'low sugar level and high blood acidity' and had to be transported to hospital. The activists reportedly decided to end the hunger strike on 24 February 2009 and protest through peaceful resistance.

Further, 35 Bahraini activists went on trial in Bahrain on 23 February 2009, including Mushaima, Al-Muqdad, Al-Singace and the youth, detained over terrorism charges and 'attempting to overthrow the state.' Mushaima denied all charges against him. The trial has been adjourned till 24 March 2009.


2. Background

Hunger strike

Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, spokesperson for Haq (Haq movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy), collapsed on the eighth day of the hunger strike due to 'low sugar level and high blood acidity' and had to be transported to hospital. At the time of writing of this alert, he was in hospital receiving treatment for his illness. Another activist on hunger strike, Abdul Hadi Al Mokhowdher, also reportedly collapsed last week and was taken to hospital for a few hours.

The hunger strikers were protesting the detention of two prominent opposition leaders belonging to Haq, Mr Hassan Mushaima and Sheikh Mohammad Habib Al-Muqdad, and several youth detained due to their alleged involvement in a 'terrorism plot.'

Mushaima, Secretary General of Haq, and, Al-Muqdad, a prominent religious figure closely allied to the organisation, have been detained since 26 January 2009, and have been charged under terrorism related offences for 'instigating' a 'terrorist attack' on Bahrain. Several youth, who were also captured and detained in December 2008 in relation to these allegations, have been allegedly tortured in detention. Their supposed confessions, which were aired on national television, have been alleged to be extracted under duress.

However, according to reports, it is widely believed that the reason for the detention of these activists is because of their opposition of the '…Al Khalifa hereditary dictatorship, especially the refusal to draw up a democratic constitution and the crime of genocide resulting from the political naturalization programme being implemented by Sheikh Hamad.'

The activists reportedly decided to end the hunger strike on 24 February 2009 and protest through peaceful resistance. They demand the release of all detainees, including Mushaima and Al-Muqdad, and dropping of all alleged charges and opening of a dialogue to explore solutions for all pending issues of concerns.


The trial

35 Bahraini activists went on trial in Bahrain on 23 February 2009, including Mushaima, Al-Muqdad, Al-Singace and the youth detained over terrorism charges and 'attempting to overthrow the state.'

According to reports, the defence requested for the detainees to be removed from solitary confinement and to be freed. Mushaima, Al-Muqdad and some others are reportedly held in solitary confinement. Al-Singace did not appear in court due to his failing health because of the hunger strike. The trial has been adjourned till 24 March 2009. The defendants filed a complaint against the public prosecution for broadcasting so-called 'confessions' of the detained youth.

Defence lawyer for Mushaima, Jalila Al-Syed told reporters, "My client denied all charges levelled against him and said the trial was for political reasons... he considered the confessions of his co-defendants as being done under torture".


Regime's reported propaganda and campaign against Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace

According to reports, the minister of interior of Bahrain made 'offensive sectarian' statements in a Saudi newspaper, stating that 'native Shia Muslims have always been a minority in the Bahrain'. Further, the authorities are reportedly trying to stifle the popular uprising against them by arresting people and bribing journalists to refrain from reporting the realties on the ground.

Many activists have borne the brunt of the government crackdown through arrests and bans, especially Al-Singace and other Haq members. Al-Singace, who was also arrested with Mushaima and Al-Muqdad was released on bail on 27 January 2009, but is currently under a travel ban. He has been restricted from expressing his views, as recently his website, (http://alsingace.katib.org), where he posts news, articles etc. was blocked by the Bahrain Ministry of Culture and Information due to 'publication of prohibited content'. He has also stated that his privacy has been infringed as his phones and emails have been reportedly placed under surveillance. He also reports that his voice and the voice of other activists has been replicated by the authorities using voice changing software, as a 'basis for indictment'. Further, he was also made the subject of a smear campaign by the authorities after his trip to the US Congress in October 2008.

During detention, AL-Singace was interrogated about his speeches and articles. He and the other two Haq leaders were charged for 'inciting hatred of the regime…provoking violence and the overthrow of the political system'. They were charged with 'forming an organization…which disrupt the provisions of the Constitution, laws or prevent any of the State enterprises or public authorities from exercising their duty', a charge punishable by life imprisonment.

Al-Singace has denied all allegations and considered them malicious and politically motivated. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) '…believes that his arrest, detention and prosecution are related to practicing legitimate and peaceful public activities (Electronic articles, speeches, seminars and presentations). Moreover, the atrocious charges are phony and meant to silence him from expressing his thoughts and performing any peaceful related to democratic reforms and promotion of human rights and civil liberties specially freedoms of expression, assembly and association.'

Apart from being a spokesperson for Haq, Al-Singace is also a professor at the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Bahrain. Due to his long-term disability in his left leg, and carpel tunnel syndrome in his wrists, he requires a wheelchair to carry out his academic duties. Several human rights organizations feel that as a disabled human rights activist the authorities should treat him humanely, giving him his rights due under the recent treaty that Bahrain signed on the UN Convention of the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities, nevertheless, he has been continually harassed.


3. Action required

a) Write to the minister of foreign affairs in your country, urging him/her to raise this issue with his/her Bahraini counterpart.

UK campaigners can write to:

Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Email: private.office@fco.gov.uk


b) Write to the Bahraini ambassador in your country.

UK campaigners can write to:

HE Shaikh Khalifa bin Ali Al Khalifa
30 Belgrave Square
London
SW1X 8QB

Fax: +44 020 7201 9183
Email: information@bahrainembassy.co.uk


4. Sample letters
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Sample letters are given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is extremely important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters.

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Sample letter to minister of foreign affairs in your country (UK campaigners can use the address supplied)

[Your name]
[Your address]


[Date]

Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Dear Mr. Miliband,

Re: Bahrain – Opposition leaders on trial over false charges

On 23 February 2009, 35 Bahraini activists went on trial for terrorism related charges. They included prominent members of opposition group Haq, namely Mr Hassan Mushaima, Sheikh Mohammad Habib Al-Muqdad, and Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, who were charged under terrorism related offences. Several youth who were also captured and detained in December 2008 in relation to these allegations and were allegedly tortured in detention, were included in the group that went on trial.

I am very concerned about the welfare of these opposition leaders and youth. Mr Mushaima categorically denied all charges against him in court. Dr Al-Singace and Mr Al-Muqdad too deny the charges against them. The Haq leaders consider the charges malicious and politically motivated.

I believe the current crackdown against the Haq leaders and other activists is the Bahraini regime's reaction to the continued peaceful dissent of the activists against the unjust policies of the regime. The Haq leaders have openly criticized the regime through their speeches, articles and international seminars.

I urge you to pressurise the Bahraini authorities to immediately release the opposition leaders, grant all political detainees fair trials and ensure they are treated humanely while in detention. Please urge Bahrain to allow citizens their right to freedom of expression and association in the country.

I look forward to your response on this urgent matter.

Yours sincerely,


[Your signature]
[Your name]

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Sample letter to Bahraini ambassador in your country (UK campaigners can use the address supplied)


[Your name]
[Your address]


[Date]

HE Shaikh Khalifa bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Khalifa
30 Belgrave Square
London
SW1X 8QB

Your Excellency,

Re: Bahrain – Political activists on trial

On 23 February 2009, 35 Bahraini activists went on trial for terrorism related charges. They included prominent members of opposition group Haq, namely Mr Hassan Mushaima, Sheikh Mohammad Habib Al-Muqdad, and Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, who were charged under terrorism related offences. Several youth who were also captured and detained in December 2008 in relation to these allegations and were allegedly tortured in detention, were included in the group that went on trial.

I am very concerned about the welfare of these opposition leaders and youth. Mr Mushaima categorically denied all charges against him in court. Dr Al-Singace and Mr Al-Muqdad too deny the charges against them.

The detained members of Haq are well-known as respected, law-abiding citizens of Bahrain, diligently promoting human rights in Bahrain. They are involved in peaceful dissent of government policies through their lecture, seminars and articles and have shown willingness to be involved with the government in a constructive dialogue to tackle the issues of concern.

I therefore urge you to immediately release the opposition leaders of Haq, grant all political detainees fair trials and ensure they are treated humanely while in detention. Please allow Bahraini citizens their right to freedom of expression and association.

I look forward to your response on this urgent matter.

Yours sincerely,


[Your signature]
[Your name]


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