Maryam Al-Khawaja Sentenced In Absentia to One Year in Prison
The prominent human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja released a statement on 30 November, in which she announced that she would boycott her court hearing in Bahrain on 1 December because she expected to be sentenced on trumped up charges. The next day, on 1 December, the Bahrain Court did just that and sentenced Maryam in absentia to one year in prison for “assaulting police officers” at the Bahrain International airport during her arrest upon arrival to Bahrain on 30 August. She had spent three weeks in detention before she was released and left the country prior to the hearing.
Following the ruling on 1 December, Maryam tweeted: ”It doesn’t matter if I’m sentenced to one year or 15, the underlying result is if I attempt to go to Bahrain I will go directly to prison” and ”The regime thinks they can break us, but this only makes me more determined to continue my human rights work”. Maryam added that there are members of her family, including her father, who she can no longer see and that she cannot travel to countries that have security agreements with Bahrain.
“The Court’s sentence against Maryam Al-Khawaja is yet another example of how the regime uses legal mechanisms to obstruct the legitimate work of human rights defenders. We demand that the regime and authorities in Bahrain stop their on-going crackdown against Maryam Al-Khawaja, her family and other human rights defenders in the country. And we urge the authorities in Bahrain to immediately drop all charges against Maryam, release her father and other imprisoned political prisoners’’ says Robert Hårdh, Executive Director at Civil Rights Defenders.
Maryam Al-Khawaja is the Co-Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, (GCHR) an independent non-profit and non-governmental organisation that works to provide support and protection to human rights defenders in the Gulf region by promoting the role of the media and networking with international organisations. She lives in exile in Denmark.
On 30 August 2014, Maryam flew to Bahrain to visit her imprisoned father, the prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who was on a hunger strike. She was promptly stopped and detained when she got off the plane. On 18 September, she was released from detention on bail but the charges against her remained and she was banned from leaving the country. She was able to leave Bahrain prior to the hearing.
Maryam’s father and her sister, Zainab Al-Khawaja, are both active human rights defenders in Bahrain suffering from on-going harassments and violations. Her father is serving a life sentence for his involvement in pro-democracy protests and her sister is due back in court on politically motivated charges on 9 December. GCHR says that the judicial harassment of Zainab and Maryam Al-Khawaja is directly related to their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities and constitutes an attempt to hinder this work.News.
Tags: Bahrain Court, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, and Maryam.