Bahrain urged to release former military officer

Bahraini authorities must release or charge a former Bahrain Defence Force officer who was detained after speaking out against government repression during recent pro-reform protests, Amnesty International said today. Bahraini security forces arrested Mohamed Albuflasa, who worked in the office of the Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, after he took the podium during protests in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout on 15 February. On 15 April, a military prosecutor extended his detention for 45 days after he served a two-month prison sentence handed down by a military court in March, although the charges against him remain unclear. “The Bahraini authorities must release Mohamed Albuflasa or immediately disclose on what basis they are holding him and charge him with a recognizable offence,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.“He has already been jailed merely for voicing his political concerns in public, which is not a crime, and the authorities’ refusal to release him now smacks of retaliation aimed at silencing his criticism.”“We fear he may be a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully criticising the authorities.”Since mid-April the 36-year-old has not been allowed visits by family members. A lawyer appointed by his family has twice been refused entry to the Military Prosecution building to request a permit to visit Mohamed Albuflasa and a written request for a visit has gone unanswered.  A Sunni Muslim, Mohamed Albuflasa is among hundreds of mainly Shi’a protesters to have been held since the protests began. “Bahraini authorities must at the very least allow those detained to have access to their families and lawyers,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. “Protesters targeted simply for peacefully criticizing the authorities must be immediately and unconditionally released. Others must be charged with internationally recognizable criminal offences and sentenced in fair trials.”