Bahrain: Imprisonment of HRDs and Shia book banning

Frontline Defenders & HAQ: Movement of Liberties and Democracy- Bahrain

Four human rights defenders who were acquitted in the High Criminal Court in October 2009 after the case against them collapsed when forensic evidence proved police statements to be false, have apparently now been convicted and sentenced by the Court of Appeal. Reports indicate that the human rights defenders, Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, member of the Committee of the Unemployed; Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan, member of the Committee Against One Percent; Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor, member of the Committee to Combat High Prices; and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor, member of the Committee for Detainees were sentenced on the 28 March 2010 by the Court of Appeals to three years in prison, for the alleged murder of a police officer and the attempted killing of two of his comrades during a riot. The four human rights defenders have not yet been re-arrested.

On 13 October 2009, Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor were acquitted on all charges in the aforementioned case by the the High Criminal Court, after a trial that lasted 15 months, in which the scientific evidence and in particular the forensic report had proven that the police statement related to the case  was false.

Previously, on 9 April 2008, Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor, together with 15 political activists were arrested at their homes by the special security forces and accused of setting fireto a  police car during an alleged riot. At the time, the four human rights defenders had been involved in a peaceful demonstration against the arrest of other human rights defenders in December 2007. During their detention they were allegedly ill-treated, tortured and held in solitary confinement.

Front Line believes that the sentences are related to the recent publication of the human rights report about torture in Bahrain called "Torture Redux", which includes testimonies of defenders Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor. It does not appear that any new evidence was presented to the Court of Appeal which appears to have operated in manner contrary to international standards regarding fair trials.

Front Line believes that the sentences of Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor are directly linked to their work in defence of human rights. Front line is seriously concerned for the physical integrity of Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor. Front Line sees this as part of a pattern of ongoing  harassment and intimidation against defenders and human rights organisations in Bahrain, which is an infringement of the guarantees of freedom of association, assembly and expression contained in Bahrain's domestic law and the international human rights treaties and standards to which Bahrain is party.

Front Line urges the authorities in Bahrain to:
1.    1.Cancel any warrants for the arrest  of the four human rights defenders Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor, as Front Line believes that their re-trial and the subsequent verdicts against them are solely a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;
2.    2.Uphold the High Court's judgement that acquitted the four human rights defenders, or alternatively reopen the appeal trial ensuring full respect of international fair trial guarantees;
3.    3.Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the alleged torture and ill-treatment of  Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor during their detention in 2008 with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
4.    4.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 all restrictions including juridical harassment

Bahrain-Impeding import and display of Shia books in official book fair

In a report by Alwasat newspaper about the latest book fair organized by the Ministry of Culture and Information (Moci) and held in the period of 17-27 March 2010, it was learnt that some books published by Lebanese publishers, mostly of Shia theology, were banned from being imported or displayed. Prior to the event, over two dozen Lebanese publishers, who have been used to participate in previous book fairs, were impeded from coming to Bahrain[1]. Some publishers were not granted visas whereas others were delayed until it was too late. Some were allowed entry for only one lady representative, while others were denied local sponsors to take care of their display.
As per statements by some publishers after their arrival:"Some publishers were eventually allowed to participate in the exhibition, but some books were barred from entry to Bahrain, without official justification"[2]. Others expressed dissatisfaction with "the complications that they encountered while participating in the book fair, considering that this might be a reason for not participating again in the coming years".
Among publishing houses, which primarily print Shia books, that eventually received approval from the Moci and shipped their books to Bahrain, but could not enter Bahrain are: Al-Aref "The knowledgeable", Al-Oloom "The Sciences", Al-Ameera "The Princess", Al-Mahajja Al-Baydha "The White Lead", Al-Qare'a "The Reader", Al-Rafedain "The Tributaries", and Al-Fajr "The Dawn".
Reports indicated that certain titles were barred from entry to Bahrain, while others were removed from the book fair selves. Among the banned books, mostly concerning Shia theology, includes:
1-       "Mohammed or Quraysh", a history book.
2-       All books about Fatema, the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed
3-       All books written by Mohamed Al-Teejani, a Tunisian writer converted to Shia.
4-       All history books written by Najah Al-Taee
5-       "The Earthquake" by Esam Al-Emad
6-       "The True Biography of the Prophet" by  Jaafar Al-A'amely
7-       "Al-Zahra Tragedy" by Jaafar Al-A'amely
8-       "The True Biography of Imam Ali"
9-       Explanation of Nahj Al-Balagha (Wordings and sayings of Imam Ali)
This is not the first time that books are barred from entering Bahrain or removed from Book fair display shelves. In the Bahrain International Book Fair during 18-27 March 2004, about 40 books were confiscated from the shelves of the publishers' displays in front of everybody. Most of the confiscated books were religious books of Shia sect of Islam. Few were historical but considered subversive.
HAQ is concerned about the difficulties introduced by Moci to prevent Shia publishing houses from participating in the book fair thus preventing access to Shia books. This is part of a more stringent policy to prevent access to information; rather, it is more of introducing clamps onto religious freedom to Shia in Bahrain. Needless to say, that blocking access to information, in any form, is a blatant violation to basic human rights and those spelled by Article 19 of the UN Declaration of human rights and the same article of the ICCPR, which was acceded by Bahrain in September 2006. Therefore, HAQ calls for the Authorities to:
1-      Put an end to censorship and clamping all means of controlling flow of information via blocking sites and blogs, banning books and publishable materials.
2-      Stop violating Shia's religious freedom and respect the choice for accessing books and publishing materials about their theology.
3-      Respect vows and commitments to human rights covenants and declarations and particularly those concerned with freedom of expression and rights to information
April 14, 2010