Possession of leaflets calling for boycotting elections, “Mohammed & Hussain” face upto 7 years imprisonment on charges of favoring and promoting change of regime Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi (dentist-35 years), Hussain AbdulAziz Al Hebshi (employee-32 years), attended this morning the Lower Court at the Ministry of Justice in the Diplomatic area along with their lawyer Mr Mohamed Ahmed, in the presence of their parents and some activists.
It has been observed on the first session that it is short in duration and was limited to the Court judge reciting the charges put forward by the Public Prosecution to Mohamed and Hussain, which they both denied. These charges are based on Articles (161) and (168) of the Bahraini Penal Code (Decree law no. 15 of 1976), which both fall under articles on the External State Security. The request of the defendant attorney to the release of his clients ensuring their place of residence, particularly in light of the lack of further interrogation or other evidence, had been turned down by the judge who ordered their imprisonment for the next session scheduled on January 14, 2007, totaling their incarceration to almost sixty days (two months). It was also requested that all interrogation documents which were used to bring charges against Mohammed and Husain and list of indictment to be submitted to the defendant attorney.
According to the notorious Bahraini Penal Code, Article 161 state that “Penalized by imprisonment or a fine whoever possessed, directly or by mediation, or acquired publications containing favourism or promotion of the foremost provided for in the preceding Article if were about to be distributed or exposed to others, as well as who possesses any means of copying, recording or broadcasting, dedicated even temporarily, for the printing or recording or broadcasting of appeals, songs or propaganda, for a particular sect, association, commission, organization designed to the purposes set forth in the preceding Article”. Article 186 states that “Penalized with imprisonment of upto two years and a fine not exceeding two hundred Dinars, or either, whoever deliberately broadcasted news, statements or false or tendentious rumors, or spread provocative announcements if it would disturb public security or sow terror among people or damage public interest. This penalty is punishable for whoever possessed, directly or by proxy, or acquired leaflets or publications containing some of what is provided in the preceding paragraph, if intended for distribution or exposition to others, and also who possessed any means of copying, recording, or publication, even for short term, for printing, recording or broadcasting anything said”
As for the preceding article referred to in Article 161 above, ie Article 160 of the Penal Code, stipulates that ” punishable by imprisonment for a term not more than five years whoever promoted or favoured, in any way, the overthrow or change of the political, social or economic of the State by force or threat, or any other illegal means “. According to the Public Prosecutions, the activists – Mohammed and Hussain – are accused of “favourtism and promotion of the change the Regime by illegal means and without legitimate reason” and “spreading news and false provocative rumors which would cause disruptions of public security and damage general interest” because they possessed publications downloaded from the Internet calling for boycott the past elections.
As a result and according to these Articles, the two activists could face imprisonment of upto seven years – if the two penalties were added together – or fine or both.
Today’s session reflects the beginning of the trial for the freedom of expression guaranteed by all international covenants, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which was acceded by Bahrain on last September 20 th. The activists, “Mohamed and Hussein” have done nothing but exercised a naturally recognized right- exercised by everybody in and outside Bahrain. This is right to the freedom of opinion without fear. It is a case of public issue, and not specific to these two young men, their families or activists. This is a trial for all human beings: individuals and groups. When exercising of freedom of expression becomes misconduct punishable by the law, then the modern world has transformed into a jungle, where the powerful controls every features of life and expression.
Everybody – individuals, groups, members and leaders of popular organizations and civil societies: human rights, political, press and others – are called upon to raise their voices loud to protest against this practice, which threatens civilization, the existence and stability of the society in midst of calls for reform, democracy and respect for human rights, and to demand the closure of this case, by releasing of the detainees of publications and conscience, “Mohammad Hussein”.
Bahrain, as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council since May 9, 2006, should be abide by the priorities of all members of this council which is respect and safeguard the freedoms and human rights in the country (homeland) before watching any violations in other countries. The Bahraini Government, which claims having empty cells of political prisoners and detainees of conscience, to swiftly release the two activists- unconditionally- and seek to protect human rights values at the level of practice and legislation .
Committee of Solidarity with Activists and Detainees of Conscience in Bahrain
January 7th, 2007.