A military court in Bahrain has sentenced a poet to one year in prison for reading out a poem criticizing the country’s King.
Ayat al-Qarmezi, 20, a poet and student was sentenced in a Manama court today following her arrest in March for reading out a poem at a pro-reform rally. She has reportedly been tortured while in detention.
She was charged with taking part in illegal protests, disrupting public security and publicly inciting hatred towards the regime.
"By locking up a female poet merely for expressing her views in public, Bahrain’s authorities are demonstrating how free speech and assembly are brutally denied to ordinary Bahrainis,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The Bahraini authorities must drop the unfair charges against Ayat al-Qarmezi, and release her immediately and unconditionally."
Ayat al-Qarmezi's family members told Amnesty International she appeared strong after the trial and her lawyer plans to appeal the ruling.
While attending a pro-reform rally in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout in February, Ayat al-Qarmezi read out a poem which she said was addressed to King Hamad bin 'Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain's head of state.
Its lyrics include the lines "We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery/ Don’t you hear their cries, don’t you hear their screams?" She was forced to turn herself in to the authorities on 30 March after masked police raided her parents' house repeatedly and reportedly threatened to kill her brothers unless she did so.
She was held incommunicado for the first 15 days of her detention and since then has only been permitted to see her family twice. Ayat al-Qarmezi alleges that she was beaten in detention and tortured with electric shocks. The Bahrain authorities say at least 24 people, including two police officers, have died in clashes between police and demonstrators since pro-reform protests began in February.
Military trials related to the protests are under way after at least 500 have been detained and four have died in custody in suspicious circumstances.
Some 2,000 people have also been dismissed or suspended from their jobs, apparently as part of an ongoing purge of those who participated in the protests.