Bahraini authorities must immediately release human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was arrested and taken into custody today along with her baby son Hadi, Amnesty International said.
“Zainab Al-Khawaja and her family have been relentlessly targeted by Bahraini authorities for speaking out against human rights violations,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“Her convictions are for nothing more than tearing up photos and seeking to visit her father in prison. If this arrest means the start of her prison sentence, she will be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.”
15 police jeeps arrived at Zainab Al-Khawaja’s home this afternoon to arrest her, closing down the entire street, according to her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja.
Zainab Al-Khawaja has been a prominent figure in human rights activism in Bahrain since the 2011 uprising and has spent almost a year and a half in prison. She is currently facing a prison sentence of three years and one month and a 3,000BD fine linked to various court cases against her, including for tearing up a photograph of the King. If the fine is not paid, her prison term will be extended by around a year and a half.
Her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a leading activist and prisoner of conscience, has been serving a life sentence since 2011. Her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja has been charged with “assaulting police officers” while being searched.
Maryam Al-Khawaja, who lives outside Bahrain, told Amnesty International that she fears Zainab’s latest arrest is linked to her own recent outspoken condemnation of human rights violations in Bahrain.
“The absurd charges against Zainab Al-Khawaja are not recognized under international law, and demonstrate the lengths the Bahraini authorities will go to in order to silence freedom of expression and peaceful dissent,” said James Lynch.